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A tiny little nook of a spot on the outskirts of the chic area of Barrio Alto, this is a …Rating:
A tiny little nook of a spot on the outskirts of the chic area of Barrio Alto, this is a little gourmet gem with an economical lunch price and a bohemian flair. It is quiet and unassuming, but elegant and refreshing, quite consistent with the cooking itself. I have found a lot of the more traditional spots for lunch to be heavy handed and greasy, and this place embodied a welcomed lightness.
The bread is light and with a nice tooth, served either with butter or very green and delicious local olive oil. Also served on request, a lovely flakey pile of sea salt. This is a welcome note as each time I have asked for salt for my bread and oil (not so common a practice in Lisbon), out comes the iodized heart attack kind that is a sad destruction for the usually understated Portuguese flavoring.
We started with a shared appetizer of home cured mackerel, split for us onto two plates. It was served with a bright orange bread and pimento sauce and tiny thin circles of radish with little baby herbs. Very delicate and approachable, which is hard to say about a mackerel, like meeting a big and scary but friendly Rottweiler. Mackerel coming from Portugal has a sweetness that does not shine through so much with the English varieties. Portuguese mackeral lacks that steely fishiness, which I actually find attractive, but for most it is a little overbearing.
We then had the cuttlefish, served on a bed of creamy mild polenta, and diced into one inch squares. At the center were three oysters, extracted from their shells. This is usually a bad idea in general, unless fried, as most of the flavour for the oyster (and freshness) lies within its juices. The whole dish was so soft in flavor, I felt bored and disappointed, like a lukewarm bath- neither here nor there. Some herbs or a charred bit of cuttlefish legs as an addition would livened it up a bit, or perhaps a splash of paprika and balsamic. Mind you, it was not bad, just a bit of a wallflower. The presentation was very beautiful however, and sometimes that adds to its deliciousness, as it definitely did here.
The turbot was much more flavoursome, with roasted yellow peppers and a broth flavoured softly with its juices. It was delicate and perfect for a gentle palette looking for a gourmet Portuguese experience. Again not bad but really lacked excitement.
Overall, a really charming experience and worth a try, otherwise I wouldn’t mention it. But it is for the more mild of tastebuds, something light and elegant whilst in Lisbon.