Went to O Cantinho in Inman Square on Friday night with my GF (;-))...arrived around 8:30 to an empty restaurant - some quiet jazz playing in the background - It's a very cute and romantic cafe-style restaurant - paintings on the wall, semi-open kitchen - we sat by the front window, which was plenty warm on this chilly evening - lots of little decorations - appreciated the festive little candy canes hung from all the plants including the cactuses.
Any trepidation about dining at an empty place went away as we were greeted by our host, a charming older gentleman who was the paragon of politeness and good taste the entire evening - offering a suggestion or a little bit of information about the food, but never intrusive. Frankly, he made us feel special and it enhanced the entire meal.
We started with a couple of the small plates:
Grilled calamari with polenta cubes - The calamari was pretty tender and had a nice grilled flavor - there was a savory light gravy - the polenta cubes were toasted and crisp on the outside, a little gooey on the inside - great for absorbing the sauce - wish there had been more of them!
Stewed peas with linguica and bacon - wow, tasty - salty, but not overly - it was like a split pea with ham soup, dried out and on steroids.
She had a steak, ordered medium-rare (and cooked perfectly) although the quality of the steak was "eh, not so good." Portuguese-style thin sliced fried potatoes and vegetables (medley of cauliflower, carrots and zucchini) - there was a wine reduction sauce, almost like a gravy, with large slices of garlic that could have been cooked a little more and cut a little smaller. All in all, though, it was enjoyed and mostly finished.
I had a seafood medley of mussels, clams, calamari and a couple of head on shrimp over rice, again with a garlicy sauce that was just delicious. I ate the entire thing - the quality of the seafood was pretty good -
Ordered a bottle of Portuguese red - Vino du Monte - Wine of the Mountains - as described by the waiter, a little drier than Merlot, closer to a Cabernet - it was very light at first, fruity but dry and had a strong finish that initially surprised, and mellowed very nicely with each refill. I would try this again.
They had a number of desserts - I don't think we chose all that wisely - a light and sweet coconut cake and a bean cake that was reminiscent of red bean cake from dim sum. They were both average - my espresso was proper.
All in all, with the wine, ambience and good food, a very enjoyable visit.
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