Review: Álbora

11 April 2015

Had a somewhat frustrating day in Madrid, as my aforementioned bad luck with Spain has not changed, despite last night’s fine Viridiana dinner. I had a good but simple lunch (to be chronicled later). My foot was still bruised and swollen, so it was annoying to walk too much. Nevertheless I walked quite a lot all afternoon, stupidly you may say…

I rested in my hotel a bit before heading out to dinner. I have read many great things about Álbora and its cooking. The downstairs is a tapas bar, but the upstairs is a 1-Michelin dining room. I had booked a table in advance an was really looking forward to this dinner from everything I’ve heard.

I got there at the restaurant’s opening hour of 20:30 (8:30pm) like most places in Madrid. But it was total chaos. They had no idea when they could seat me because they were not ready — on a Saturday night. I almost walked out after waiting for 15 minutes. It’s not like they were waiting for other people to finish. It was opening time!

I wasn’t seated until half hour later — in an empty dining room. Utterly ridiculous. I was so turned off I almost chose a quicker option to leave, but I heard so much about the food here, and the big tasting menu looked fantastic, so I went for it.

I asked if they did a wine pairing and they said not really but they will figure something out for me. Hmmm, that’s odd. Maybe I should have just gotten a bottle…but it’s hard with an 11-course tasting menu… I relaxed as some more diners showed up, but it was still only half full when the first dish arrived.

01-truffle_broth

The first small tasting was a black truffle broth. Very nice tasting, a fine start to this dinner. I can see the kitchen’s talents at work already.

02-smoked_sardine

The second dish was centred on smoked sardine, which boasted a distinct and nice taste that went along with a tinge of coconut, ginger and beets. Interesting, brought the fish out nicely.

I relaxed a bit over the excellent food, but was getting annoyed at the “improvised” wine “pairing” when the servers all disappear for 10 minutes at a time. There seems to be major miscommunication among staff members… I tried to focus on the food as the third item came out.

03-morcilla_lamb_puff

This was a very nice crispy bread wrap of morcilla and lamb’s feet. Nice, though the crispy bread kind of took away the full flavour of the interesting filling. Good nevertheless.

04-cuttlefish_pasta

The fourth dish was something that I’ve had in a few different places, including London’s much loved Hedone — cuttlefish pasta (cuttlefish cut into pasta). This version had it in a delicious squid broth with a touch of spiciness. Very good, I like the flavours used here, not trying to mesh too many different ideas into one dish. Excellent dish!

So far I am loving the food, but the service is messy. One of the junior servers had the most dour-looking expression I’ve seen since Moscow 1992, totally off-putting; it’s like she rather be anywhere but here. The main server kept disappearing for lengthy periods, returning somewhat confused to figure out my wine situation. That was getting annoying.

05-monkfish_liver_razor

Then the next dish arrived, and it was a wonder. This dish focused on monkfish liver and razor clam, with a touch of licorice. Fantastic dish, excellent combination of flavours. A strong dish, the star of the night so far. This kitchen is damn good, I tell you.

After this the next dish came out quicker than anticipated, and I asked them for wine — and the next dish really needed wine. The dour-faced server just shrugged and walked away…huh? What just happened there? I asked in both Castillian and English so no excuses…

06-cod_tripe

This was a fabulous cod tripe dish. I love this dish, and this was done very well. Tangy and heavy. But it really, really, REALLY, REALLY needed wine. I was livid and no one bothered as much as I signalled to them. The main server had disappeared again… I ended up finishing the dish and gave the servers an angry look. This is ridiculous for any restaurant, nevermind somewhere with a Michelin star and not very busy… This poor service is taking away from the fabulous food…

07-monkfish_ink

The next dish is a fabulous-looking dish, monkfish glazed with ink. The ink gave the monkfish a wonderful additional flavour. Excellent! The main server had returned and seemed confused which course I was on as he had to take one of the bottles he was gonna pour back… This is just laziness… Fabulous food, absolutely crap service…

I think he got the message as he came back with the next wine quickly here before the next dish appeared…

08-veal_sweetbreads

Wow… Now these were some of the very best veal sweetbreads I’ve ever had. I’m not usually a sweetbread fan, but these were just absolutely gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth stuff. I’d eat sweetbreads every day if I had these. Wow… Goodness the food was fabulous, but what is with the FoH?

09-cabezada_iberica

The final savoury dish was another beauty, the cabezada (head of the loin) from an Iberico pig. This was tasty and rich, but once again the wine was missing until I was about half way done. I was really sick of this place despite how amazing the food was…

10-violet_cubes

I barely took notice of the “cubos de violeta” dessert as I was just ticked off at this stage. It takes quite a lot of grief to make me annoyed with this amazing display of food and cooking, but this FoH has done it. It’s really made this a terrible evening.

11-pistachio_coffee

The food closed with a pistachio cream in coffee. I asked for the bill once this arrived, not wanting to wait forever afterwards and get more worked up. I left quickly and walked out of this place for the first and last time.

To be honest, this was one of the best tasting menus I’ve had. The cooking was utterly fantastic, the ingredients wonderful; this is an amazing kitchen! But I have rarely been so infuriated by the incompetence of the FoH, it just isn’t worth the grief. Sad. Seems like a curse with Madrid — blessed with ingredients and talent, but the attitude just works against everything. I was starting to tire of Madrid…

If there was an evening that just summed up Madrid for me, it’s this one. Oh, what an incredible shame…

Álbora
Calle de Jorge Juan 33
Madrid, España

Review: Viridiana

10 April 2015

My first full day in Madrid was somewhat productive, despite still not walking well thanks to that idiot on the Iberia flight. I had a nice lunch (which I will chronicle in a different post) and was looking forward to a fine dinner at one of Madrid’s best-known restaurants, Viridiana.

From Chef Abraham García’s kitchen have emerged many of Madrid and Spain’s top chefs, including the enfant terrible of Madrid’s food scene David Muñoz (chef of 3-Michelin DiverXO — which, btw, has an unfair ticketing system that refuses to book single diners…). I was actually excited to check this place out, to see from where all this talent sprung.

I really hate this very late eating time in Spain, but I managed — getting there at it opened. I was seated in the downstairs dining area and relaxed as I watched the place slowly fill up this Friday evening. And just my luck, another table of American pensioners with a lot of opinions were placed next to me. Why me?!

As I endured their nauseating conversation I ordered my rather unorthodox dinner and tried to chill out with some wine. Eventually they brought out the first amuse bouche, the gazpacho.

AB1-gazpacho

This is one of Chef García’s specialties, this version with strawberries and anchovies. Fabulous, one of the very best gazpachos I’ve ever had, and really sells the concept of this soup. I was one of the very few people not cold in Madrid this evening, so it worked great.

AB2-tartar

A second amuse of carpaccio was on the boring side. Oh well, I was looking forward to my dishes anyway, as I want to eat a lot since I was hungry. Had more wine as there was almost no signal downstairs, forcing me to listen to the idiots talk about their inane lives… Then my salvation…

1-caracoles

Yes, caracoles — my favourites. I love these things. This was a fantastic large portion, the snails cooked perfectly. I enjoyed each one as if it was the last, but did not waste too much bread on this sauce — as good as it was. That will be explained later. This was the voluminous part of the dinner, after all… Excellent, and I got everyone’s attention in the dining room with this dish.

I enjoyed more wine as the snails ran out, and ate the final one with some sadness. Fantastic stuff. I chilled out with more wine getting ready for my second dish, for which I saved a lot of bread…

2a-marrow

Yep, bone marrow. These babies were fabulously rich, roasted perfectly. I rarely eat this much marrow because bread has a habit of filling me up too much, but this was the meal!

Untitled

Fantastic! Perhaps not the most creative of orders, but the stomach won today.

Throughout the meal García came out to greet guests, and every time he walked past me he nodded with understanding watching me eat, and I returned the greeting with appreciation (in my broken Castillian). By the third time he actually patted me on the shoulder as he walked by.

I relaxed and finished my bottle of house white, still revelling in the rich flavours of the 2 dishes. As I relaxed, I also did the staff a big favour — I helped them with some translations of today’s specials that they had trouble explaining in English. I guess I earned my daily bread.

3-fruits

I ordered a dessert to soothe my over-stimulated stomach and it was a nice, natural one. It was some gelato and an assortment of exotic fruits. Excellent end to this meal.

I headed out of Viridiana pretty happy, having enjoyed some excellent natural flavours with just enough touch by García. Finally, a fabulous dinner in Madrid. Was my luck changing? Let’s hope so…

Viridiana
Calle de Juan de Mena 14
Madrid, España

Bar-Limping in Madrid…

9 April 2015

I had such a wonderful time in Lisbon, especially that fabulous dinner at Cervejaria da Esquina, I didn’t really want to leave, but Madrid was beckoning. I’ve not had good experiences my previous times in Spain, including Madrid. And as I arrived into Barajas on the short flight I had a strange feeling…why?

Before I even got off the Iberia flight two things already went wrong — I had to pay for my checked bag (for a national carrier?), and on the plane waiting to disembark some clueless, extremely calorically-challenged moron stepped on my foot (with all his gravitational excess) and didn’t notice even after I yelled… I limped to a taxi and faced a ridiculously smoky hotel room — which I got changed, but had to wait (so I limped to lunch nearby).

Not a good start…

So when I thought about dinner for this evening I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I was just gonna play it by ear. I hate being around tourists and Madrid is lousy with them, so I chose the quieter district of Retiro for my gastronomical adventures.

I limped around at what is for me a normal dining hour but way, way too early for Spain, and most places were not functional. I eventually went into one of the first places that opened, a place called La Hoja.

This unpretentious Asturian restaurant was just what I wanted — simple, specialised, full of locals. I enjoyed some white chilling out at the bar, and they brought some house tapas. Ordinary stuff, including some nice chicharrón, but mostly boring stuff. I then decided I need to fuel up with the wine drinking, so I ordered some callos.

callos

Tripe is a specialty all over Spain, but the Asturian version is very nice and tangy. Only problem was this was a huge portion. I forgot how big the raciones are in Spain… I was pretty full when I finished and took my leave.

I limped about 2 blocks and went to another region of Spain when I found the well-loved Galician eatery, O Grelo. Now I love Galician food (not just the Portuguese links), but my “local” in NYC for so many years, El Pote, is helmed by Galicians.

I chilled out at the bar and with my wine again they presented a house tapa that I could easily live without. I wanted something interesting, so I ordered cockles. After some more wine, a huge dish of it presented itself. These were very nice, with the briny sea in every bite.

cárdidos

I finished and headed out, having enjoyed this stop. I was filling up, and my foot was killing me (what’s the bad luck always with my foot?!), so I decided to make only one more stop before heading in. I walked a few blocks and found the well-liked seafood restaurant Rafa.

I had some wine and this time they just presented olives…thank goodness. I was so full and wanted to eat more, but that callos really just took all the steam out of me this evening. So all I ordered was a plate of mojama. Now these were nice but nothing exciting…

Mojama de atún de almadraba

I’ve had much, much better ones… Oh well, I think I had enough this evening. I made my way back to the Metro and back to the hotel, as I had a busy day tomorrow. Let’s hope my Spain luck changes, but from what I’ve seen this first day…

La Hoja
Calle del Doctor Castelo 48

O Grelo
Calle Menorca 39

Rafa
Calle de Narváez 68
Madrid, España

End note: No, it didn’t. I had to deal with an adjacent room of teenagers drinking in their room and making ridiculous noise until nearly 4.30am when even the management lost patience with them. Ugh…

Review: Cervejaria da Esquina

8 April 2015

I knew I was gonna pay a heavy price for that awesome dinner last night at Belcanto; specifically the copious amounts of wine and aguardente I consumed… But it was worth it, a fabulous night. This made my final full day in Lisbon one of semi-recovery and moving slowly. I changed my plans somewhat and just enjoyed the local area a bit, strolling in places nearby I have not explored earlier — plus a simple seafood lunch.

But for my final dinner I planned ahead for somewhere that not many tourists go, but is beloved by its local fans — Cervejaria da Esquina. It’s in the suburb of Campo de Ourique, which is not well-served by public transportation. On this drizzly night I had trouble finding the correct bus stop for the 1 minibus (#774) that went to the area, so I ended up walking the 20+ minutes from the Metro uphill.

I was knackered when I got there, but was welcomed into an extremely cool and modern eatery that wouldn’t look out of place in Williamsburg or Chiswick — nor would the bearded staff. I sat down and relaxed and they poured me some wine… Staff was happy to humour me when I spoke my limited Portuguese but they soon happily switched to fluent English to guide me through the menu.

I decided to go with small plates. Everything looked so good and I wanted to experience as much as I could this final night in this lovely city, so why not. I placed my order and they smiled, so I figured it was good. Soon the first of my dishes arrived, and it’s one of my favourite things to eat in the world…

1-razor

Look at these razor clams. Juicy and plump, this was an excellent helping of these slender wonders! The flavour was perfect, letting nature play the key role. Oh goodness I am in heaven!

I recovered after all those razors and my servers smiled appreciatively, hearing all my mini-moans. They then presented the next course.

2-prawns

Oh my goodness I could smell this dish from the kitchen and all its garlic goodness. Excellent prawns, flavourful and no sogginess; and the spicy, garlicky sauce was just awesome. I wish I had more room in my stomach to soak all of this up with bread! After finishing the last prawn, which was splendid, I changed my own answer — and indeed soaked up the last of the sauce with bread! Just garlicky good!

I was filling up but I was loving this evening — even more than last night. There was good chat with the servers and even a fellow diner — who was surprised when I answered a question he had been pondering with the server all in Portuguese. Good fun! More wine when the last dish arrived…

3-cuttlefish

Oh my these were looking awesome! Fried cuttlefish! Proper cuttlefish, not squid-cum-cuttlefish. Not frozen stuff. Not thin stips. These were logs of solid cuttlefish, breaded perfectly — thin but flavourful. Not drippy or soggy, done just right. Full of flavour, and did not distort the natural solid texture of the cuttlefish. Oh, I am really in heaven…

I was nearly dead when I finished the last of the cuttlefish. I ordered another glass of wine, and they just emptied the bottle into my glass (I was the only one drinking this one anyway). Relaxed and when they asked me about dessert, a lightbulb went off on top of my head, and Mel was gonna do the Mel thing with dessert.

I ordered another dish. And I think you can guess what it is.

4-razor

Oh, more beautiful razors. I had a bit of time to rest and digest all that food before this “dessert” came out. They loved it. I loved it. As good as the first bunch, I just savoured every bite of it. The rain was coming down out there and I knew I had a long walk in the downpour as I didn’t want to wait for a night bus at this point, so I fuelled up. I was nearly teary when the last one was consumed — not just for being so full, but also it was the last one…

When I got up to leave, the entire staff was bade me farewell, as they also enjoyed my enjoyment of their fine work. Friendly, quick and skilled staff, wonderful and fresh seafood, good wine, and the bill was far lower than you’d expect. How not to love this?

I walked out in the rain with a huge smile on my face. I took it slowly down the hill as it was raining hard, and the stones on the pavement extremely slippery. I was still smiling when I got back to my hotel after getting to the Metro after a 20-minute slow walk. I think I was still smiling when I woke up the next morning.

Lisbon has completely won not just my stomach and liver, but also my heart and brain. My feet have some issues with this town, but frankly the others trump. I will certainly be back. I have fallen in love with Lisboa.

Next stop, Madrid…

Cervejaria da Esquina
Rua Correia Teles 56
Lisboa, Portugal

Review: Belcanto

7 April 2015

After all that fabulous, rustic Portuguese food, I was wondering to myself whether to stay on that course, or to tempt myself back to haute cuisine one more time. The Easter Sunday 100 Maneiras was okay but mediocre, but I have been told time and time again no matter what, if you go to Lisbon, you must try Belcanto. So I did.

I got up the hill a little early and waited outside. Soon I wasn’t the only one, and the crowd grew, and the door still did not open. After a bit, people were becoming impatient, so I rang the doorbell…and they led us all in and seated us.

Inside this 2-Michelin restaurant is a beautiful dining space, and I had a cozy corner seat. I relaxed over some white port and pondered which of the menus I should choose this evening. I had a long day running around town so I was both hungry and tired, so I chose the most ambitious of the menus, what chef José Avillez called “Portuguese Cuisine Revisited” — along with a local wine pairing.

The set of amuse bouche soon arrived, and it looked interesting…

00A-AB1

It included a frozen sour cherry liqueur ball, an olive sphere, and a tofu made with lupin beans graced slightly with kaffir and piri-piri. An interesting set. Then the pairings began for the evening, and many of them were just fantastic. However, my experience was slightly marred by a table nearby of very loud and opinionated middle-aged Americans from Napa, who had negative things to say about any wine not from Napa…

Why do these people travel? Ugh… Anyway, then the second set of amuse arrived and I tried to ignore those people.

00B-AB2

Another set, this time more ambitious. It involved pickled carrots with tuna, a chip focused on cuttlefish ink, and a morsel based on liver. Fabulous stuff, you can really taste the strength of the ingredients in each of the items. Now this is what a round of amuse bouche should be like!

I do apologise for the less-than-solid quality of the photos as my phone took a knock and the camera has not worked right since…

I was really starting to enjoy this meal despite being forced to overhear that loud table. Signals were very poor in the area so I couldn’t distract myself with Twitter as fast as I wanted. I just sipped mightily on the paired wines, which was poured in very generous proportions may I mention. Then the first of the dishes arrived…

01-shellfish

Wow. This was fun to look at. A cornucopia of shellfish here on a dish called playfully by chef “The Porthole” — and you can see why. Lots of tiny morsels of goodness, from razor clams to barnacles, sitting on a light pool of sea water. This dish was both fabulous and extremely frustrating — the tastes of the items were fabulous, but they were way too small making you want far more. A hell of a tease!

I enjoyed the wine, which complemented the briny goodness of that fun dish. Next up was a dish that came covered, and when that cover was lifted the beautiful aroma of smoke filled the room…

02-smoked_eel

Oh wow, this was a smoked eel and marrow dish with a lacing of porridge and even caviar. It was like heaven in every bite and breath as the smoke continued to eminate, enticing the two senses to the max. Fabulous dish, again I wish there was more!

As I enjoyed more of the very generously poured wine pairing, and tried to ignore the growingly annoying table nearby, the next dish arrived…and my heart sank…

03-golden_egg

Yeah, even though this dish, the so-called “The Garden of the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs” was one of chef Avillez’s most famous, I was hoping not to see this on my tasting. I have an extreme dislike for the idea of edible gold, as it does utterly nothing positive for any dish and for me is an unpleasant sight on a plate. Egg, bread crumbs. No. The fail dish of the night for me in so many ways.

I got back to rhythm with the excellent wines, hoping that was the lone miss. It’s been so good so far, I can forgive one miss due to tradition. And when then next item arrived I think I was correct to think positively.

04-veal_heart

An odd but cool creation, this dish was demonstrative of chef’s love for Lisbon — and it featured veal heart and lettuce heart. A fun dish, with a tinge of pancetta, it was cute and tasty also. Creative. Then the next dish was an homage to rustic Portuguese cooking, cozido à portuguesa.

05-cozido_à_portuguesa

This classic Portuguese “toss-it-all-in” stew was prepared with much finesse, however. They noted to me that the item used to enhance the flavour of this version was neck lard. Mmm… More excellent wine with this dish, a slight detour into a red.

I was enjoying this meal and became less annoyed at the other table as they seemed to be quieter from having drank enough of the wine they were at first moaning about (but now seem to be liking). I was loving my food and wine and the next dish didn’t change that by one bit — the sea bass.

06-sea_bass

A very nice piece of fish, again resting in a shallow pool of sea water (I like that briny feel). Strong texture and good taste. Clearly chef knows how to work his seafood. Nice stuff, alongside some more good wine (a return to whites).

When the red came back out I knew it was switching course again, and the meaty offering laid on the table made me drool…

07-oxtail

This was a beautiful oxtail dish, graced with foie and veal tendon. Goodness, it was like a trifecta of taste here, one of the tastiest meat dishes I had this year. After all that excellent seafood, chef shows off his land-based chops. Awesome! What a great way to close the savouries for the evening!

I relax for a bit as we moved into the dessert courses. The first focused on the pumpkin…

08-pumpkin

Then we had a larger one of citrus and traditional cream eggs as the central motif…

09-citrus_cream_eggs

Followed by a palate cleanser that reminded one of the original amuse bouche…

10-fruit_tree

Then finally, the closer, the “chocolate tree” with the morsels of goodness. Goodness indeed, wow. I enjoyed a bit of coffee and aguardente, and also ended up chatting with some other tables near me for the rest of the night (the annoying large table had cleared out). It was a fabulously fun evening, perhaps a bit of excess throughout with the very generous wine pourings, but the food deserved a huge round of applause.

After the fabulous rustic eating I’ve had, I needed one of these brilliantly-cooked nights too. Wow, Lisbon, you have really won my stomach’s love and devotion. I may be paying for this night later on, but it was completely worth it. Belcanto indeed deserves its 2 Michelin stars. One minor fail dish, but that’s my pet peeve with the edible gold. Rest of it was fabulous, imaginative and extremely delicious.

Completely worth it, even putting up with a table of morons next to you!

Belcanto
Largo de São Carlos 10
Lisboa, Portugal

Bloody Feastin’ in Lisbon…You Gotta Love It!

After a somewhat mediocre and ordinary dinner at 100 Maneiras, I was now keen to seek out the real Lisbon, and some of the more unique dishes the city has to offer. I had a busy Monday running around the city, having somewhat mastered the public transport system in a very short time (Metro, bus, funicular, tram, and even minibus). In this consolidated piece on good eats in Lisboa I will do a short run-thru of 3 excellent places in town. This is what this trip is all about!

The first was lunch one day at the oddly-named Tipiky, which was quite a hike from the centre of town near the Quinta das Conchas Metro. I read good things about this out-of-centre eatery, and the menu looked as fantastic. I wish I had more time (and stomach space) to explore this restaurant, but the one dish I wanted for lunch this day was arroz de cabidela.

This wonderful Portuguese dish may not be for the squeamish, as its colour betrays its vital ingredient. This is not plain ol’ chicken rice, but cooked in said chicken’s blood. Chunks of chicken and some of its offal are all inside this fabulous dish, and I was lucky it was also the plate of the day at Tipiky…

cabidela

Wow, this was humongous. Didn’t expect the entire pot (pix is just from the first helping). It was a huge serving, but fantastic. Rich chicken, tempered by a tinge of vinegar, brought the essence of the land-based Portuguese kitchen to all my senses. This, alongside a half bottle of house wine, cost less than a gourmet sandwich in NYC.

This is the Portugal I was looking for, and I have found it — first at Tipiky, next at Cervejaria Ramiro. If Tipiky gave me land-based goodness, Ramiro was for sea-based goodness.

The next day’s lunch, after another crazy hike around, was at the well-loved institution Cervejaria Ramiro. Beloved by locals and tourists alike, this is one of the most famous seafood houses in all of Lisbon. I made it there, a bit sweaty, after an argument with my tram driver for missing a requested stop (I wasn’t the only rider yelling, so were a bunch of locals).

Cervejaria Ramiro is a very simple tavern with all its seafood on show. I relaxed with a half bottle of house wine and started my feast, starting with some fabulous pata negra first.

pata negra

Why you ask? It’s just something I needed before all the seafood. Then the show began, with some of most glorious of delicacies in the Iberian peninsula, percebes (barnacles).

percebes

These babies were very juicy, so I took some care in extricating all the juices before eating the creatures inside — which got a minor reproach from my server (I guess that took too long). Oh well! They were little packages of briny goodness I tell you.

prawns

Then finally were two excellent grilled prawns in a garlic butter sauce. Uh, utterly dreamy. Lots of bread to soak up all the goodness, and I was in heaven. Yesterday was blood from the land, this day was gifts from the sea. This, my readers, is really how good simple, down-home Portugese cuisine is.

And finally, one of my care-free evenings I trekked to a restaurant loved by locals outside the centre, Adega Tia Matilde. It’s located in a really inconvenient place, across the tracks at the commuter Entrecampos-Poente rail station, but once I got there I chilled out and relaxed. With a bottle of the house white I embarked on another of the meals that would define my time in Lisboa.

I wanted to experience as much of what I cannot get at home, even at Portuguese restaurants, so I went all out for this dinner. People like this place because it is homey and old school — and it has a separate smoking area (thank goodness, very separate). And they have all the hard-to-get dishes. Mine began this evening with eel.

eel

Mmm, I was really looking forward to this awesome dish. The eel pieces were fried with a lot of garlic, a perfect combination. Seriously rich and strong, I was on 9th heaven with this mixture. I would have ordered another if I hadn’t ordered what I had for my main course, and I knew it was voluminous…

lamprey_2

Yes, you guessed it, lamprey rice. The Portuguese way of doing these beauties, which are in season, is to also utilise its blood for the rice — like the cabidela I had for lunch at Tipiky. Rich and full, the rice was wonderful. However, it was the large lamprey pieces that were the real wonders of this dish, far larger than the delicious ones I had in Latvia. This is damn awesome.

lamprey_1

As you can see I have a large pot of it again…wow, this was just fantastic. I was spent when I finished this pot. Again, a very affordable dinner, and a nice stroll across the train tracks back towards my hotel. This is the Lisbon I was looking for. 100 Maneiras the first night didn’t really do it, these 3 modest places really did.

And these weren’t even my best dining experiences in this amazing town. Wait until you see the upcoming reviews. But this essence of Lisboa is so lovely I just fell in love with this city… The people, the food, the feel. It’s just something I feel, and I feel good here. What a town…

Tipiky
Alameda das Linhas Torres 151-A

Cervejaria Ramiro
Avenida Almirante Reis 1-H

Adega Tia Matilde
Rua Beneficência 77
Lisboa, Portugal

Review: 100 Maneiras

5 April 2015

I arrived in the beautiful city of Lisbon on the afternoon of Easter Sunday at the beginning of a 4-day stay at the Portuguese capital — and the start of nearly 2 weeks of before-it-gets-too-hot visit to the south of Europe. I’ve not been back in Lisbon for over a decade, and that was a short, poorly-planned trip. I was looking forward to getting the most out of my days here!

Although it was Easter Sunday, I managed to get a booking at the very-well regarded 100 Maneiras in the historic Barrio Alto. Although it lost its Michelin star awhile ago, I still hear very good things about the restaurant and its Sarajevo-born chef, Ljubomir Stanišić.

I was running a bit late thanks to the Metro being on holiday hours, so I ran up alongside the Elevador da Glória. I was a sweaty mess when I got there, but I relaxed with some good white port and copious amounts of water. Ah, soothing…

I have been told much about Stanišić’s cooking, and have read some fascinating things. So I was truly looking forward to this tasting menu. You see chef’s playfulness and creativity with the first dish, dehydrated cod.

01-dehydrated_cod

Interesting, but the dehydration takes what little flavours out of the cod, so the coriander aioli and the red pepper coulis became very necessary. An interesting start. Then we have dish number two, lamb carpaccio.

02-lamb_carpaccio

To be honest this was very, very bland. The addenda, including the garlic puree, did not add much to this dish. The seasoning was all over the place, with clumps of salt in some parts of the dish. I was starting to worry about the Sunday dining curse, and not just Sunday, but holiday Sunday…

I relaxed and enjoyed some more wine from the pairing of all local wines when we moved to the third dish, which looked very creative.

03-scallop

This is a cute tic-tac-toe-influenced plating of a seared scallop as well as turnip. This was a good dish, although don’t be fooled — there is only 1 scallop on this plate. Then the next dish came the heaviness…

04-egg_potato_foam

A potato-foam-centric dish with poached egg and what they call “bread sand” in a gruel-ish type of dish. This didn’t really work for me in combination, and the truffle (which I don’t care for as my readers know) was even more of a textural distraction. Didn’t work…

I was starting to worry that this menu wasn’t gonna wow me, despite the crazy stuff I’ve been told chef has done in the past. That feeling continued when the next course arrived, the mullet.

05-mullet

The mullet was cooked well but I wasn’t jumping off my chair for it, nor for the quinoa under it. This over-used item was nicely cooked in a shellfish broth, but I can do without this hipster staple. Next…

Now this was a cute way to present a palate cleanser…

06-grapefruit_ginger_peppermint

This was actually the highlight of the night so far, a very refreshing cocktail of grapefruit, ginger and peppermint. Mmm… Then we moved to the last of the savoury dishes, and my heart sank…

07-pork_belly

This was a slow-cooked piece of pork belly. The celery puree was too starchy, and the pork belly was not executed very well to be honest. It was hard to eat by this point, as the restaurant was also rather warm and increasingly humid (as it started to rain outside).

I was pretty much done at this point. This was a very mediocre tasting menu and not executed particularly well. I was frankly disappointed by how ordinary and boring this was. We could have been sitting in a small city in the middle of nowhere in the US and have this type of tasting menu. Perhaps Easter did affect both product and execution, but then why open?

08-desserts

The two desserts were not bad, a pear tatin and chestnut pudding, but at this point it was not gonna change my opinion of this place. It was nice, and the staff were good, but it wasn’t as special as people suggest it is. Very ordinary in every aspect.

I walked out in the humid night, trying not to break my neck going down the steep Lisbon hills with the ridiculously slippery stones used for the pavement. Not a great start, too ordinary. Lisbon is not ordinary, and I hate to see it ordinary like this.

If there ever was a definition of “meh” tonight kind of defined it…

100 Maneiras
Rua do Teixeira 35
Lisboa, Portugal