Restaurants & Bars 1

Lisbon Report

peelmeagrape | Jul 22, 2007 12:13 PM

We just returned from our second trip to Lisbon and had a slightly better experience food-wise than on our first visit six months ago. The highlights were the pasteis de Belem; a Portuguese brand of yogurt called 'AdaGio'; a jar of pumpkin jam, and an excellent seafood restaurant on the Guincho road between Estoril and Guincho (about 25 miles from Lisbon) called Porto de Santa Maria.

About the pasteis de Belem: everyone writes rapturously about them and everyone is right. They're even richer than the usual pasteis de nata that you can get everywhere (more yolk?) and the pastry is more delicate. They were so good and I ate so many of them that I ended up with a tummy ache, so don't forget to pace yourself! FWIW, the ones I had weren't from the legendary Pastelaria de Belem but from another pastry shop just a few blocks away. I'm sure the originals are even better and plan to sample them on our next visit.

The yogurt was one of several kinds (the others were all styles of Danone) served as a part of the breakfast buffet at the hotel we stayed at this time (Le Meridien Park Atlantic). The entire buffet was very good, as one would expect for a place charging 22 euros for breakfast in Lisbon. The selection is extremely extensive: various cold cereals, about a dozen bowls brimming with various kinds of cut fruit, fresh fruit juices, Portuguese bacon, pork sausage, lamb sausage, grilled tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, hash browns, crepes, pancakes, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, all kinds of breads, cakes and pastries. Anyway, the Adagio yogurt seems to come in three flavors: 'sweetened', lemon, and strawberry. The 'sweetened' flavor is reminiscent of the filling of a cheese Danish - ridiculously good, and the lemon flavor is very delicately citrusy. The texture is somewhere between 'regular' yogurt and Greek yogurt. And the packaging kicks butt as well: chubby little glass pots capped with tinfoil and discretely stamped with the brand name. According to our waiter, AdaGio is a pretty common brand and you can get it in grocery stores.

The artisanal pumpkin jam was purchased at a store in Baixa off the Rua Garrett. Who would've thought of turning pumpkin into jam? But it's great: just pumpkin, sugar, lemon and cinnamon. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how great and the tiny jar I brought back won't survive a week. I can't remember the name of the store, but it is devoted to obscure old school products manufactured in Portugal and is one of only a few located on a short street called something like Rua Anchieta.

The restaurant, Portas Santa Maria, is the first one we've tried in Lisbon that left us raving. (We also ate at Faz Figura in Alfama and at Gambrinus near the Avenida da Liberdade this visit.) It's a low, modern building perched by a windswept shore, with 3 or 4 dining rooms and windows that give a view of the water in one direction and the cliffs in another. We were fortunate enough to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the waves. Be forewarned that the prices are truly shocking when you first open the menu...but that it doesn't necessarily have to be outrageous, depending on what you order. Each type of seafood (and there are many exotic types) is priced by the kilogram, with prices topping out at 190 euros for a kilogram of, I believe, some special type of lobster. Limited selection of vodkas (no Grey Goose or Ketel One), but they made an excellent Campari and fresh OJ. We started with the fish soup, which was a very intense broth with tiny noodles, and the stuffed spider crab, which tasted purely of crab, with a touch of mayo and something tangy like minced sweet pickles. For our main, we split the salt-crusted white sea bream, which was brought whole to our table and expertly filleted there. It was gorgeously fresh and very moist. Three sauces were served alongside, each simple but good: béarnaise, housemade tartar and a garlic-infused olive oil. I think the sea bream was listed at about 64 euros/kilogram on the menu and when the cheque came, we were charged about 56 euros for it between the two of us. We chose 'golden soup' (cake drenched in extremely rich custard) and chocolate mousse for dessert, both of which were good, but the mousse wasn't utterly transcendent like the mousse at Pap Acorda.

Can't wait for our next visit to Portugal to do some more exploring!

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