I know people love this place, and perhaps we just had an off day, but sorry to say it didn't do it for me in terms of food or very peculiar service.
First thing that I found strange and irritating was that the lunch menu was only to be found in the Portuguese language menu, which they don't at first give to obvious non-Lusophones. Makes you think they have a certain destiny in mind for the English-speaking clientele...
Anyway, I probably would have been tempted to order one of the larger tasting menus, if all of the options had been originally presented to me, but since they were not I decided to get the lunch menu. The first dish, made of mixed seafood was okay, the main dish, a steak, was really forgettable (and significantly worse than a steak I'd had a couple of days before at novamesa in Lisbon).
Another weird thing during the meal: the lunch menu came with a glass of wine. I drank my glass and then a waiter swooped in and automatically refilled it. No question, do you want another glass, no body language asking, just a quick and immediate refill. I started to wonder if maybe the menu had come with a quartino or something. Then I'm eating the steak, finishing that glass, and the same thing happens again. Finally got the waiter's attention and ordered a glass of a different wine after that.
Dessert was best, a pear poached in red wine. Of course, the punch line is that when we get the bill there are two glasses of wine on there, at five euros a glass. (I know that's cheap anywhere else, but it's a fancy glass in Portugal.) I didn't say anything because I guess I could have arrested the waiter in mid-pour or whatever and asked if it was included, but I didn't. Have never seen this kind of thing in Portugal before, where servers seem to always ask if you want another one, unless of course you have ordered a bottle.
Servers were unfailingly polite, but I got the distinct impression that they had been carefully instructed in the very (I think un-Portuguese) arts of upselling, overpouring, etc. Left a bad taste in my mouth. Perhaps they only pull out these tricks for obvious gringos, but even then...
I don't doubt that if you spend 50 or 60 euros per person on the tasting menu your experience will be different. I guess you could say that the place doesn't shine with the simple lunch menu, but I think that if they offer something like that, it should entice diners to return for the tasting menu, not disappoint them. Otherwise just don't offer it and annoy people who come expecting something better.
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