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In Lisbon recently, I was walking around taking in the sights and wondering where to get some local seafood for dinner that wasn’t too touristy, when I came upon a sign for “baked octopus” outside an otherwise unassuming restaurant. That would do, I thought, so I came back in evening with my wife.
The restaurante was Fama d’Alfama on Rue do terreiro do trigo in the Alfama district. This is a neighborhood that attracts tourists, but there were only locals inside. Shortly after ordering I noticed with curiosity that they closed the entrance. It turned out that it was a casa de fado and they were about to start a set of fado, a singer (fadista) with traditional accompaniment of two guitars (one Portuguese, one classic). They don’t admit new customers during the music and stop serving the customers present as well. The customers are expected to listen to the music without distractions. The fadista, in fact, was our server.
The set was short, so the restaurant activity soon started up again and we were served. We ate and stayed through one more set of fado. How was the food, you ask? It was good — generous portions and I ate the whole thing. The house wine was a blend of green and white. But the music was excellent and what really made the evening memorable. We weren’t looking for fine dining, just some local food. We got, I think, as authentic an experience of local food and entertainment as I could expect to find, in an intimate setting which clearly wasn’t oriented towards tourists.
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