Given there is a dearth of resources on restaurants in Portugal (esp those outside of Lisbon) figured I'd publish a writeup I did on the back of our recent 10-day trip. Proximity notes reference hotels we stayed at. The formatting sucks, sorry about that. Lastly, I'd like to express gratitude to MOREKASHA for his post highlighting his Lisbon experiences.
General notes: we highly recommend making reservations for every single meal including lunch, though possibly applicable only during the high season.
1. Mar ao Carmo; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...; on-line reservation (via Tripadvisor/TheFork).
a. Highly recommended. Not necessarily the best execution of every dish vs the other two Lisbon restaurants, but overall probably the most satisfying. We changed reservation (from Bairro do Avillez) to come here on the last night in Lisbon, after eating here on the first night.
b. Walking distance from Avenida Palace (10-15min). Has outdoor seating (w heaters) on the plaza outside.
i. Razor clams (both times, second time order a second portion after eating the first). Excellent. Clams themselves smaller of the two we had in Lisbon.
ii. Octopus. Absolutely perfectly cooked, but not quite to the level of Frade dos Mares’ version (see below). Comes with creamed spinach that is by far the best we’ve had (and makes it impossible to order again at US steak houses).
iii. Carabineros (red prawn). Impeccably cooked (but, predictably, don’t have the same softer texture of smaller prawns).
iv. Tiger prawn. Same as above. Slightly larger (~200gr).
v. Spiny lobster/langouste (“lagosta”). We ordered them both times we were there, first time a ~800gr live specimen from a display tank, second time a pre-murdered smaller one off the ice (~300gr). Both cooked perfectly and utterly delicious. Note these are pricy at ~EUR110/kg.
vi. A flan both times for desert. On the menu described as “condensed milk and orange” something. Very good.
d. ~EUR200 the first time (inflated by a ~EUR90 langouste) with a bottle of wine, ~EUR150 the second time
2. Peixaria da Esquina; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...; on-line reservation (via Tripadvisor/TheFork).
a. Highly recommended. In competition for the best grilled fish ever.
b. A shortish (~20min) cab ride from Avenida Palace
c. A bit of a hipster vibe
i. Octopus carpaccio. Excellent
ii. Some sort of a fish ceviche with mango (think it was dorado which was on special). Good.
iii. Razor clams. These were larger then their counterparts at Mar ao Carmo, just as well prepared, but a touch less enjoyable on the margin.
iv. Grilled wild sea bass. Perfectly cooked, possibly the best grilled fish we’ve ever had (or at least since turbot at Elkano in Getaria the year prior). Was their most expensive fish and by the time of our 8:30 dinner they only had one remaining.
e. ~EUR 200 with a bottle of a relatively expensive wine (EUR40), inflated by a EUR90 sea bass
3. Frade Dos Mares; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...; on-line reservation (via Tripadvisor/TheFork).
a. Highly recommended. The best octopus ever. And we order octopus at every restaurant (at least once), if it’s on the menu.
b. A shortish (~15min) cab ride from Avenida Palace
c. A bit of a hipster vibe
d. The door is locked. To get in ring the doorbell. Note it might take the staff some time to get to the door.
i. Octopus Lagareiro style. This was the absolutely highlight and surpassed the perfectly cooked Mar ao Carmo version. The difference is softer more buttery texture (think wagyu vs regular beef). The difference seems to be in using smaller octopi (we asked; cooking-wise they don’t do anything unusual like sous videing).
ii. Prawns “Frade dos Mares.” Absolutely excellent, we ordered a second portion after finishing the first.
iii. Cod fish with corn bread (it is the sandwich-looking thing on Tripadvisor photographs). Very good assuming the person eating it enjoys salted cod/bacalao.
iv. Grilled sea bass (possibly farmed). Excellent, but slightly short of Peixaria da Esquina’s version.
v. Desert was competent but not memorable.
f. ~EUR 150 with a bottle of wine
1. A Tasquinha; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...; tried booking via Quinta Das Rosas, but Anna couldn’t get owners live and only left messages – we still got seated.
a. Not recommended. Surprised how the same place that cooks an impeccable squid can simultaneously turn out perfectly rubbery shrimp.
b. Note that parking in Nazare is generally difficult. Don’t try to drive down the street leading directly to the restaurant – it is very narrow.
i. Squid. Perfectly cooked. Were disappointed they sold out of cuttlefish (also on the menu) at lunch.
ii. Prawn. Completely overcooked to the point of being inedible.
d. ~EUR35 with a glass of wine and a beer
2. Pangeia; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...; booked via Quinta Das Rosas
a. Highly recommended. Very good food and appealing ambiance. Bright, airy, upscale space with fantastic sunset view.
b. On a hill overlooking the town, about a 5 minute drive or a 10-15 minute walk from Quinta das Rosas. Parking is not easy but still better than venturing into the madness that is Nazare.
i. Octopus ceviche. A much more textured, masculine style than Peixaria da Esquina’s version. Probably not as impressive but more enjoyable.
ii. Grilled octopus. Excellent but would rank it just below Mar ao Carmo’s. Great combination of charred outside and soft inside.
iii. Oven baked octopus. Very good but shows that an oven is an inferior way of cooking octopus. A more uniform level of doneness than the grilled version.
iv. Fish soup to end the meal. Hearty and delicious. After ordering one portion (intending to split) ordered a second one.
v. For desert ordered a Polish version of Napoleon with cream on the bottom (the owner’s wife is Polish, hence the connection). Very enjoyable if a touch heavier than what we are used to.
d. ~EUR120 with a bottle of wine
1. Fialho; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...; reservation made via Convento de Evora front desk
a. Not recommended. Appalling use of high quality ingredients. The worst restaurant of the trip, more so taking price into account.
b. 12 minute walk from Convento de Evora
i. Pata Negra ham plate. The best dish of the evening.
ii. Pig trotters. Mediocre at best. Difficult to quantify how or why, but not as enjoyable as pretty much every other iteration of the dish ordered previously.
iii. Pork cheeks. Dry and oversalted, if still technically edible. The only reason wasn’t worse is not due to the lack of trying, but rather the inherent difficulty of screwing up cheeks.
iv. Black pork medallions. Absolutely horrid, overcooked and perfectly dry.
d. EUR110 with a bottle of wine
1. General note: all restaurants booked through the front desk at Onyria Palmares Beach House.
2. Os Lambertos; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran....
a. Not recommended.
i. Grilled sardines. This was the first time ordering sardines during the trip, which might skew opinion. But very impressive, better than O Camilo’s and on par with Chico Ze’s.
ii. Grilled squid. Quite possibly the worst grilles squid we’ve had in years. Completely overcooked and rubbery.
iii. Grilled fish (don’t remember the exact fish, but one of the day’s catch and about ~EUR35/kg). Overcooked though might be in part a function of the leanness of the fish. Not as obviously atrocious as the squid, but not exactly good either.
3. O Camilo; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran....
a. Recommended. Was the biggest positive surprise of the time in Algarve. Expected a douchy place (which it was) with mediocre food (it was not) and spectacular view (wasn’t either).
i. Tomato salad. In general Portugal gas very good quality tomatoes, much better than the US. If ordering, tell them to hold the onions.
ii. Grilled sardines. Enjoyable but not quite as good as Os Lamberto’s or Chico Ze’s. Primary difference was the skin, which was more scaly (not sure if sardines are normally served descaled or not).
iii. Fried shrimp. Very good.
iv. Fried cuttlefish. Very good.
v. Sparkling sangria. This was a very nice surprise, as we haven’t tried it previously. Made with a decent sparkling and frozen red and black currants.
4. O Lourenço; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...;
a. Meh. It’s an OK dining option if you are staying in Salema, but we wouldn’t go out of our way for it, which we did.
i. Grilled spiny lobster. Competently prepared, albeit not as good Mar ao Carmo’s (the biggest difference is probably the absence of caviar; although cooked a touch longer than optimal as well)
ii. Seafood stew w turbot (catapalana). An ok dish, somewhat limited by the underlying recipe. Would probably be improved by making it more spicy (but that’s a personal preference).
iii. Soft merengue cake. Really good.
5. Chico Ze; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...; this is the only restaurant we did not have a reservation for (though they do accept them); wait at ~2pm was modest ~15 minutes.
a. Recommended. Enjoyable and unpretentious. Has covered outdoor seating. A very convenient location, relatively close to Onyria Palmares Beach House.
b. Note that it’s only open for lunch.
i. Grilled sardines. Very nice, on par with Os Lambertos (and a larger portion, 8 vs. 6).
ii. Grilled dover sole. Very well prepared, the best grilled fish of the Algarve restaurants, albeit not quite on the level of Lisbon’s.
6. Tasca do Kiko; https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...;
a. Recommended. In general a competently-cooking hipster restaurant with a cool view over a boat yard. A touch douchy. Probably more interesting to the locals less used to fusion menus.
i. General notes: All dishes (other than desert) are well prepared without being exceptional. The pavlova is the highlight of the meal. Order individual portions, it’s too good to share.
ii. Canned anchovies
iii. Pata Negra ham platter
iv. Smoked herring salad
v. Tiger prawn
vi. Chicken liver pate. This was somewhat nicer than the rest. Nice and light. Some of the better chicken pate we’ve had.
vii. Pork loin (Lombinho porco). Ahead of expectations. Puts Falho’s version to shame.
viii. Lamb meatballs
ix. Brazilian shrimp stew (Moqueca de Camarao)
x. Merengue cream pastry (Pavlova). Excellent.
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