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San Jose - Sousa’s $10.95 Portuguese buffet

Krys Stanley | Jan 28, 200503:03 AM

At lunch on Tuesday and Friday you can have an all you can eat Portuguese buffet at Sousa’s Restaurant which has most of the dishes on their menu. Of course I went on THURSDAY. :-(

Ar the end of this post I will talk about my lunch at La Salette Portuguese Restaurant in Sonoma where I had the same dish as I had at Sousa – Portuguese pork with clams. Comparing a dish from Sousa to a dish from La Salette is sort of like comparing the chow at Tu Lan to Slanted Door (when both were good).

The food at Sousa was good, hearty, and plentiful but it lacked the complexity and elegance of La Salette.

The wine list at Sousa sort of sums it up. Andre ‘Champagne’ was on it … at $12.95. You couldn’t even order it by the glass. I personally like Andre and buy it often; however it is no Piper-Heidsieck I’ve never seen Andre on a wine list before. There were some Portuguese wines, but Andre. My kind of place.

All entrees come with soup or salad and a basket of Portuguese rolls from the excellent Popular Portuguese Bakery which is next door.

I ordered a half bottle of Charamuba duro 2000, a pleasant Portuguese table wine with a spicy port like taste.

From the look of the place, I correctly guessed the salad would be of the iceberg / Safeway tomato variety. I chose the potato leek soup. The thick, house made potato soup was salty but fine.

A huge plate of pork stew loaded with in-shell manila clams arrived. All of Sousas portions are huge. The menu has a charge for an extra plate because I am sure quite a few people share these entrees.

There were salty black olives with pits and cubed potatoes with the pork and clams and a sprig of parsley for decoration. The potatoes were like over done home fries. In all a filling dish, but I wouldn’t order it again. I had to take home half. It was just too much for one sitting. There were also two slices of orange on top which were refreshing in contrast to the stew.

Most of the dishes either have a wine garlic butter sauce or Leo’s wine sauce. There are daily specials, but they are on laminated menus, so perhaps they change, depending on the day of the week.

Quite a few Portuguese people dropped in for lunch and it seemed like they were regulars, sharing the latest gossip. Really nice staff. The pork with clams was on the dinner menu, but they made it for me for lunch.

Some of the dishes don’t seem Portuguese. However, here are some of the Portuguese items:

Steamed clams with butter, garlic, wine and paprika sauce (appetizer)

On Sunday the soup is caldo verde, a Portuguese soup. On Friday they have clam chowder. Don’t know if it is Portuguese, but I always pay attention to clam chowder.

The Alcatra Regional is a “Portuguese beef stew baked in a clay pot slowly to achieve tenderness with a ray of Portuguese spices”. I like that term, a ray of spices.

They have Polvo or Portuguese octopus stew.

For dinner they have a dish that just confounded me … Vienna Roastbratten … butter flied NY steak with pan fried potatoes, smothered in onions and Leo’s wine sauce. Where did this come from?

Bacalha a Gomas de sal is layered cod, onions, and potatoes baked in olive oil, sprinkled with hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and olives.

Mariscada a Sousa is a seafood medley for two ($45) with shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops and crab with a “wine butter garlic sauce”. For $2.50 more you can get the same dish with saffron rice.

There are some canned Portuguese sodas available – Sumol de Maracuja, Anananaz and laranga which translates to passionfruit soda, orange soda and I forgot the third type.

Garota & Galaeo seems to be the Portugese espresso.

Desserts include: Malatov, torta de coca, flan, chocolate mousse, cheesecake and teramisu (their spelling).

Beside the Andre, the wine list included Casal Garcia Vino Verde, Dao Grao Vasco red and white, Primavera, Cavaco de Pico. Wines by the glass are Emerald Glen.

The décor can only be described as eclectic. I knew they sometimes had live music. When I walked in the door I saw a woman with her back to me sitting at a small organ. I was impressed. Live music at lunch. I sit down and look over at her … it was a mannequin.

However, it was the attention to detail. She had her shoes off (but wearing nylons) and her feet were on the organ pedals. Neatly next to the pedals were two black shoes. A tip glass held dollar bills. The posture was like someone getting ready to play. Even though I KNEW she was there, every time I turned around and looked at the mannequin, I involentarily jumped. There was a huge wooden Portuguese guitar on the wall. The background music was Portuguese guitar music. I asked what type of instrument was on the wall and that’s where I got the info. You enter the restrooms through a large wall shaped like a Portuguese guitar. Old photos from the 40’s line the walls A picture of an older woman playing a Portuguese guitar and wearing a black shawl, had the black shawl draped under it.

There are all sorts of knick knacks, a bronze eagle, and a huge vase of artificial sunflowers. I liked it. It was like the owner took thought to surround himself with all the things he loved. I’m thinking with that mannequin he has a sense of humor.

The chef was bringing a dish to a table that I didn’t see on the menu. It had a large quartered pineapple. On his way back, I asked, what was that dish. Not missing a beat, he said “It’s a pineapple” and hurried off to the kitchen.

I’d go back to try the buffet.

In contract is La Salette. I got a tip for La Salette from a review by Carolyn Tillie.

If I lived in Sonoma I would eat at La Salette often and try every dish on the menu. It is to Portugeuese food as Slanted Door (when it was good) is to Vietnamese. Slighly upscale using quality, fresh and local ingrdiants. The white corn dinner rolls are baked in their brick oven. They arrive at the table hot from the oven and have a corn taste that captures the sweet corn of summer. You can buy these to take home.

The PORCO à ALENTEJANA or pork with clams was a more than generous serving of clams, pork, linguica, bacon, potatoes and tomatoes in a rich olive oil tomato based soup. It was complexly flavored and deeply satisfying. The little bits of bacon gave the dish an extra shot of flavor.

The real winner though for me was the dessert, ARROZ DOCE, described on the menu as “slow cooked Portuguese rice pudding in a light caramel sauce with dried figs”. I had the RAMOS PINTO Tawny port suggested on the menu. This restaurant has an impressive list of ports and I plan to try every one of them.

Before the server reached the table there was a warm cinnamon smell, the lemony pudding was Hot from the oven. It was surrounded by a pool of caramel sauce and dried figs which was just a mind blowing combination especially paired with the tawny port.

The have started to open at 8:30 am and serve Portuguese baked goods and some light breakfast items. I plan to get myself there soon.

For an appetizer I had the special … limpets which are a sort of barnacle type mollusk. Beautiful frilly shell, So pretty in fact, I took one home, washed it and it is sitting on my desk. I’ve never seen anything like that before.

The limpets were little chewy mollusks with a strong taste of seaweed and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Looking them up on the web, the are supposed to taste like that. It seems people either love them or hate them. Well, the wine butter garlic sauce with them was lovely.

Cozy restaurant off the square with a parking lot in back. It is decorated in warm golds and browns with a blazing tiled fireplace in the kitchen. There is a lovely outdoor patio area with a serene fountain.



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