Saturday, September 28, 2013

Portugal: Casa Brasileira

Our last night in Lisbon was very low-key.  After trying the snails at Caracóis de São Bento, T and I stopped at a bakery before heading back home to pack.  We picked Casa Brasileira because we were drawn in by the incredible display window:
















We felt pretty overwhelmed once we got inside:
















There was just so much to choose from and we had no idea what most of it was.

Finally, we decided on two.  I wanted to try this one:
















It tasted like a palmier cookie coated in some kind of thick custard.

The same kind of custard found in this bun:
















To our great sadness, the pastries were bit on the stale side.  Sigh.

A rather anti-climatic end to our time in Lisbon, but it was nice to just spend a quiet night at our little flat and reflect on our entire trip.


Casa Brasileira
Rua Augusta 267
1100 Lisbon, Portugal
+351 21 346 9713

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Portugal: Caracóis de São Bento

T and I spent the majority of our last day in Lisbon climbing castle walls and exploring palace rooms in Sintra.  We were thoroughly pooped by the time we got back to the city.

Even so, with our time in Lisbon dwindling down, we had to suck it up in order to fit in all the last things we wanted to experience.  One of T's requests was Caracóis de São Bento:























It's kind of out of the way and not very easy to find.  But once you do, you step down into a homey little space filled with locals:
















Everyone goes to Caracóis de São Bento for one thing: snails.  In fact, the word "caracóis" means exactly that.

We ordered the mini-dish of caracóis or small snails (3.50 €).  The so-called mini-dish was overflowing with tiny snails cooked in a savory broth:
















I've had escargot before, but I've never had a snail experience quite like this.  When you pick out the little bugger from its shell, it looks exactly like your average garden snail:
















No chance of mistaking it for something else.  Oh no.  It's a snail.  With antennas.

Since we made it all the way there, we figured we might as well go all out.  So we ordered the caracoleta grelhada or grilled big snails (9 €) too:
















The big snails were rather sandy, but the garlic butter more than made up for that.  There's also a spicy oil for those of you who like your snails to have a bit of a kick to them.

Not going to lie, the big snails were fine, but eating the small snails was kinda...weird.  Though they weren't necessarily bad, I won't be jumping at the chance to have them again.  It's just...antennas.  Brrr...

More importantly, it's a lot of work for a tiny little thing.

I'm a lazy eater.  Bite me.


Caracóis de São Bento
Rua Dos Poiais de Sao Bento 38
1200 Lisbon, Portugal
+351 21 820 7273

Monday, September 23, 2013

Portugal: Carvoaria

Sadly, AF had to leave a day early to get back to work.  (I took Monday off.  T was on her graduation trip.)  Once she left, T and me were struck by the unwelcome realization that our vacation was coming to an end.  Suddenly a bit weary, we decided we didn't have the energy to travel too far for dinner.  

Thanks to our trusty TripAdvisor app, we found Carvoaria just a few blocks from where we were staying:
















Portuguese steakhouse?  Wooo, baby!

We didn't have a reservation, which almost became a problem, but luckily we got there so early that they let us sit down at a reserved table with just a warning to eat fast:
















You can't go to a steakhouse without ordering steak, right?  Right.

We turned down all the appetizers on the tray proffered to us and got straight to business.  Namely the Mirandesa steak (13.80 €):























Mirandesa is apparently a particular breed of cattle from Northern Portugal.  (Thank you, English menu for that little tidbit.)  Not sure what makes it unique, but it sure tasted good.  So tender and garlic-y and yummy.

Just look at it:
















Guh.  I'm drooling.

T wanted to try rabbit, so we did:
















Not my first time eating rabbit and I'm still not all the impressed.  Kind of dry and a bit too lean for my tastes.

T was skeptical when I demanded we get creamed spinach:
















But I quickly converted her.  God, I love that stuff.

Surprisingly affordable, kick ass steak, what's not to love?  Hie yourself to Carvoaria!

T and I scarfed down everything and peaced out of there before the party that reserved the table we borrowed showed their faces.  On our way back to our flat, we came across the strangest thing.

A moving hard rock concert.  As in a hardcore, screeching rock band performing from the back of a pickup truck.  It drove slowly through the narrow Portuguese streets and was followed by an equally slowly moving mob of people in an almost zombie-like fashion.  Frankly, I got a little scared.

Gotta love how people in Lisbon don't mind loud music blaring through the streets late at night.  I doubt such a thing would fly in the States without the police getting called in.  Hooray, Lisbon!


Carvoaria
Rua Maria Andrade 6
1170 Lisbon, Portugal
+351 21 814 7555

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Portugal: Ginginha

While we were wandering around Lisbon, we came across a little street fair of sorts.  The stalls lining the street were selling different kinds of local delicacies ranging from cured meats to cheeses to alcohol.

T and AF were especially interested in the alcohol, so we stopped here:























Ginginha (also spelled ginjinha) is a sour cherry liqueur.  If you want to really treat yourself, you can get it in a chocolate cup:
















I could smell its potency a mile away.  Holy moly.  Think very concentrated cherry NyQuil.  In a chocolate cup.

The little old lady at the stall chuckled as T and AF made scrunchy faces.  I may have cackled a bit.

If you like liqueur that'll singe all the cilia in your esophagus, ginginha is for you.  If you don't, you may want to stick with an empty chocolate cup.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Portugal: Bonjardim

Another one of my goals in Lisbon was to try Portuguese roast chicken or frango assado.  A quick search through TripAdvisor led us to Bonjardim for lunch:

The nice weather called for outdoor seating.  

Our server spoke flawless English and was incredibly friendly.  He cracked jokes with us all over the place and told us about his time working on a cruise ship.  He pointed out the appetizers placed on the table and explained how we would only have to pay for it if we touched it.  Though this was old news to us by then, it was the first time a server actually took the time to warn us about the practice.  Gotta appreciate that.

T wanted to try galão or espresso with milk: 























Coffee always smells better than it tastes for me.  As the only form of coffee I enjoy is the ice cream variety, I will not even attempt to speak on whether the galão was good or not.

Instead, I'll move on to the salad:
















Which wasn't all that special.  You can tell by just looking at it.

The roast chicken was the star of the show:
















Or more accurately, the piri piri sauce was the star.  You can see it in the upper left hand corner.  I wished I took a close up photo of it...but I got distracted.

Our server plated fries and chicken for each of us:
















Both the chicken and the fries were pretty standard, but the piri piri sauce took it all to the next level.  The chicken itself was kinda on the salty side, but it complimented the heat of the chili sauce.

Now, everyone knows I'm weaksauce when it comes to spiciness, so when I say the piri piri sauce was spicy, it might cause no more than a tingle for those of you who aren't quite as...delicate as I am.  What's important though, is that even though I found it spicy, I couldn't stop slathering it onto the chicken.  That says something about that sauce.

I had a great time at Bonjardim.  The service was great, the ambiance was relaxed, and the food was good.  Affordable too.

Piri piri sauce for the win!


Bonjardim
Travessa de Santo Antão 11
1150-312 Lisbon, Portugal
+351 21 342 7424

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Portugal: Povo

My now former program director told me to find fado in Lisbon, so I dutifully looked it up.  I read on TripAdvisor that Povo has fado performances at night and the food is supposed to be pretty good too, so I dragged the girls there:  
















We got there kind of early:

What else is new?  We never managed to get a hang of the later dinner hours of Europe.

We saw vinho verde or green wine on the menu, so we ordered a glass to try since it's supposed to be a Portuguese specialty.  I was all for giving it a sip, but I ordered my own ginger ale all the same:























I didn't like vinho verde, but I'm sure that's not surprising to anyone who knows me.  What is surprising is that neither AF or T liked it either.

Povo is a tapas restaurant.  None of us had ever tried Portuguese tapas, so we were really excited when we were perusing the (English!) menu.  Of course the excitement we felt then was nothing compared to what we felt when the food started coming.

First came the octopus salad (8.90 €):























So pretty and fresh.  The octopus was soft, soft, soft.

Caldo verde is a traditional Portuguese soup:
















Povo's caldo verde or collared greens soup comes with chorizo (2.20 €).  It was thick and yummy.

We also ordered the peixinhos da horta or battered deep fried string beans (5.10 €):
















The gizzards in a tomato sauce (6.40 €) was my favorite:























Although the pica-pau or tender beef strips in white wine and mustard sauce (7.80 €) wasn't bad either:
















The original plan was to enjoy and long dinner and stick around for the fado performance.  We've never been good at sticking to original plans.  In this case, we simply couldn't make dinner last that long.  The fado wasn't supposed to start until around 9:30 pm.  We finished dinner around 7:00.

Yea.  We really need to learn how to come up with more realistic plans.

Anyway, though we missed out on the fado, we got another unexpected treat.  When our bill arrived, it came with a Povo postcard.  Our server saw how we were geeking out over the postcard and surprised us with five more.  Holy cow.  How nice is that?:























Since we didn't stay around long enough to catch any fado, I can't tell you whether or not it was any good.  I can, however, vouch for the food.  It's definitely good at Povo.


Povo
Rua Nova do Carvalho 32-36
1200-292 Lisbon, Portugal
+351 21 347 3403
http://www.povolisboa.com/

Friday, September 13, 2013

Portugal: Pastéis de Belém

It's impossible to look up Lisbon without coming across Belem...and Pastéis de Belém.  Belem is gorgeous and definitely worth the day trip.  But even if it was a barren wasteland, you should still go for Pastéis de Belém:
















Just follow your nose.  And the line of people.

Get in line if you just want to buy pastries to go.  You'll eventually end up at the counter inside:
















Don't be like us and wait until you get to the front of the line to change your mind and decide to sit down inside:
















So what's the big fuss about?  Oh, my friends.  It's all about this:
















Pastel de nata.  Also known as Portuguese egg tarts.  People go all the way to Belem to buy these babies by the box.  And I totally get why.  I'm Chinese.  I don't like egg tarts.  I never have.  (Sorry ancestors, but I can't lie.)  I didn't expect to like pastel de nata because really, how different could they be from the Chinese variety?

Apparently, they're worlds apart.  While Chinese egg tarts are dense and jello-like, Portuguese egg tarts are flaky and soft and custard-y and so damn delicious.  Sprinkled with powdered sugar, with cinnamon, or with nothing at all, I love them.

Everything else at Pastéis de Belém paled in comparison.  Don't even bother.

Mushroom and leek quiche (2.15 €)?:  Pssssssh:
















Don't order it.

Duck pie (1.65 €)?:























Not exactly memorable:
















Puff pastry with chicken (1.50 €)?:
















Forget it.  It's not worth the stomach space:
















Tuna sandwich with boiled egg and lettuce (3.50 €)?:
















Not even worth mentioning:
















Get the pastel de nata.  Get a lot of them.  Eat there.  Then buy a bunch to go.  They're 1.05 € each and totally worth it.  Really.


Pastéis de Belém
Rua de Belem 84
Lisbon 1300-085, Portugal
+351 21 363 74 23
http://www.pasteisdebelem.pt/

Friday, September 6, 2013

Portugal: Cervejaria Ramiro

When Anthony Bourdain went to Lisbon, he dined at Cervejaria Ramiro.  So of course we did too.  We almost had to since it was only a few minutes walk from where we were staying.  We did ask our AirBnb hostess, Maria, beforehand whether Ramiro lived up to the hype.  She told us that foot traffic at Ramiro definitely increased substantially after the Bourdain episode aired, but that the seafood was still worth the wait.

That sealed the deal:
















We went rather early (our second week in Europe and we still couldn't shake our American early dinner habit), so the wait was actually...nonexistent:
















Cervejaria Ramiro is really high tech.  Paper menus?  Bo-ring.  Ramiro has their menus on tablets.  Yes.  Tablets.  Complete with pictures.  And in English if you so wish.

While that's super helpful, the best way to order, in my opinion, is still to look at what other people are eating.  We spotted an entire table enjoying one of these babies:























We didn't know what it was at first glance, but it looked cool and refreshing and we wanted one.  It turned out to be lemon sorbet with a splash of vodka.  How much vodka you get depends on how nice your server is.  Our server was super nice.  A little too nice.

It's apparently common practice for restaurants in Lisbon to place bread and cheese on the table at the start of the meal without asking you if you want any.  Whereas in the States where this would be interpreted as a sign of free food, in Lisbon, it's kind of a trap.  If you eat it, you pay for it.

Even though we were aware that the seemingly complimentary bread was not, in fact, complimentary, we couldn't stop scarfing down these butter soaked slices of toasted bread:
















It's just that we'd gone so long without butter and bread that we were suffering from withdrawal.  In France, all the bread came with mustard.  In Spain, we didn't really get bread.  The bread at Ramiro was the first bread we'd gotten in Europe that came with butter.  And a lot of butter at that.  How could anyone turn away from all that buttery goodness?

I'm embarrassed to say that the bread was the most memorable thing I had that night.  We loved it so much we were willing to pay for a second helping.

Not to say that the seafood wasn't good.  Not by a long shot.

The garlic shrimp is pretty popular:
















Definitely good, but I liked the clams more:
















We wanted to try something we'd never had before, so we ordered the goose barnacles:
















When our server found us staring at the barnacles helplessly, he took pity on us and showed us how to get the meat out.  All it takes is a little twist:
















Quite an experience.  And quite fun to eat.

We were so giddy from the buttery, buttery bread (and maybe from the vodka too) that we threw up our hands and said, screw it!  Let's splurge a little.

We made our server's night by ordering not just one, but three jumbo tiger prawns:























They were huge!  So of course we had to take the obligatory picture where we each pick up a prawn and hold it up to our heads.  You know what I'm talking about.  No?  Fine.  Be that way.

Anyway, it wasn't until we got the bill that we discovered each jumbo tiger prawn cost about 15 €.  EACH.  15 € EACH.

Holy...

It was worth it.  Ramiro is worth it.  Thank you, Anthony Bourdain.

We went back to Cervejaria Ramiro again two days later just for the lemon sorbet.  (I had mine without the vodka.)  We couldn't order it to go, but the servers were really nice about it, so we took our time moaning over each spoonful.  Ahhh...heaven on a hot Portuguese day.  The only thing that could have made it better is a plate of buttered bread.  Too bad we decided to behave ourselves and spare our thighs.


Cervejaria Ramiro
Avenida Almirante Reis 1
1150-007, Lisbon, Portugal
+351 21 885 10 24
http://www.cervejariaramiro.pt/
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