Was at Chiado's tonight, with family. There was a party of four, altogether.
For those who don't know, Chiado's is a traditional, classy, Portugeuse restaurant. Their specialty is fish, and there's quite a selection the menu. It also comes very highly recommended from a Chef friend of ours, and that's saying quite a lot.
We started off with an excellent amuse - a slice of light, skim milk cheese with herbed honey and a balsamic vinegar reduction. It wasn't French Laundry cheese puffs or cornet, but it was still quite good, though perhaps on an unnecessarily large plate.
Next, we got our appetizers. We had quite a mix - steamed clams, seared scallops, and the sardines. The sardines came across as a real highlight. They were served as fillets, half grilled, and half ceviched, with lots of olive oil, pickled onions, and roasted red peppers. Of the two, I preferred the ceviche, since I tend to prefer raw fish to cooked, but both were very well done. Still, this isn't exactly sashimi, with the chef going over the fillets with a pair of tweezers. There are bones to watch out for, and if this is a deal breaker, the dish is not going to work for you. The clams and the scallops were done just right, but these should be workhorse recipes which are consistently, competently executed in restaurants of this caliber.
Two members of our party had the grilled whole fish. Both fish were done the same way - grilled, with a salsa on top, and vegetables on the side. The accompaniments were sweet, heavy, and flavorful, leaning towards squash, sweet potato, and carrot. The perch was sweet, flavorful, with a real melt-in-the-mouth quality. The sea bass was denser, but the skin seemed to carry more of a rich, smoky flavor.
The rest of the entrees were rather forgettable next to the whole perch and bass. The monkfish I had was dense, slightly overdone, and covered in slightly creamy piri piri sauce which didn't appeal much to me. I think the fish would have been served better with more herb/spice crusting, and something fresh and zesty.
The entrees were all enormous. A place like Bymark would charge you the same price (around $40) and give you half as much food. However, don't expect any fancy flourishes. The only mousse here is a chocolate tower in the dessert menu, and the only foam is on your cappuccino.
As a side note, the size of the entrees are both a plus and a minus. To paraphrase Thomas Keller, the first bite is always the best. That's when your tastebuds are fresh. Each bite after, you get used to the stimulus, and it becomes less interesting. With a large, whole fish, finishing it can be a major chore. It certainly was, for my giant piece of monkfish.
The moral of the story? Be prepared for, and have the whole fish. If you aren't into whole fish, you'd probably be better served eating elsewhere.
The giant entrees didn't leave us with room for dessert, so unfortunately, nothing can be said about that.
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