Had a hearty and wholesome dinner at Casa Portugal last night. It's Portugese mom's cooking, more a product of a home than a professional kitchen. Thoroughly nourishing and honestly enjoyable.
First, an "amuse bouche" of olives, and codfish croquettes. Codfish and potato make good life-long partners, and this grease-free breadcrumb coated ball of both was a good marriage of flavors and textures.
Two lengths of spicy red sausage with firm tasty meat were brought to the table on a tiny grill still lapping with flames.
The stew of pork and clams was very homey and nicely spiced with brown earthy flavors. They used littleneck clams that were good and succulent, although I quite prefer the smaller ones I had in Portugal that gave off a tasty resilisence. The stew is topped with cubed potatoes and some vegetables.
Also tried a paella-like rice dish, true and yellow, with clams, pork chicken and squid and dotted with red peppers and green peas. The fibers on the meat fall to touch. Wouldn't mind more saffron in the rice though.
The fried slices of potato were a wonderful pleasure, crisp shells with a thin to moderate amount of fluffy softness inside.
We skipped the pudim flan for Christina's Ice Cream. The adzuki bean ice was lovely and the sweet beany flavor found great expression in this form. The ice cream was slightly powdery on account of the mashed beans, but it's part and parcel of the flavor.
Kulfi was also lovely. I particularly liked the tiny chips of ground cardamom in the ice cream; each time I crunched into one, there's a rewarding release of airy cardamom -- very satisfying indeed. Minor quibble: too much pistacchios in the ice cream -- a subtler touch from the very slightly salty nut would have given the rich cream a more prominent voice.
On the whole, I liked the richness and intensity of the flavors at Christina's. The texture is good, but I'd hand an edge to Toscanni's for texture; I think that there's a better incorporation of air in T's for a slightly stretchy bouncy sensation which I enjoy.
Of course I'll have to try the other more "normal" flavors before passing final judgement -- I suspect that those will have a higher turnover than kulfi or adzuki beans and that might bear upon freshness and quality.
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