When Oporto residents want to eat fresh fish, they drive to the nearby Matosinhos beach. The town’s main street (Rua Herois de França) and its side alleys are lined up with restaurants.
We usually go to S. Valentim and order rodovalho (turbot). We avoid appetizers so that, when the perfectly-grilled fish arrives at the table, we can give it our undivided apetite.
Each restaurant has a large charcoal grill outside maned by a master griller. This is a person with unbreakable concentration who doesn’t take the eyes off the grill until the fish is perfectly cooked.
Grilling fish is easy, unless you want to do it perfectly, in which case it takes years of experience. It is this perfection that keeps fish lovers coming back to Matosinhos.
S. Valentim is located on Rua Herois de França, 335, Matosinhos, tel. 229379204.
The rustic food of Portugal is made of elemental aromas and deeply satisfying flavors. It is a cuisine of humble people; fishermen, shepherds, and farmers, who liked food that nourishes the body. In contrast, the French culinary tradition pioneered by Marie-Antoine Carême is all refinement and beauty. It is a cuisine of kings and queens who loved to feast their eyes as much as feed their belly.
Rui Paula, a Portuguese chef, spent two decades marrying these two traditions. At DOP, his restaurant in Oporto, he serves country food cooked with palatial elegance. DOC, his restaurant in Amarante, offers a similar menu. Here, the dining experience is heightened by the serene beauty of the location, on the margins of the Douro river.
If you’re traveling in the north of Portugal, don’t miss the opportunity to try these restaurants. They’ll satisfy your body and soul.
Click here for Rui Paula’s website. DOP is located at Palácio das Artes, Largo de S. Domingos, 18, Porto, tel. 22 20 14 313, email firstname.lastname@example.org. DOC is located at Estrada Nacional 222, Folgosa, Armamar, tel. 254 858 123, email email@example.com.
Paparico, in Oporto, looks like the kind of restaurant that uses recipes passed from a shepherd’s mouth to a shepherd’s ear. Any lingering doubts about the rustic nature of this eatery are assuaged as you enter and see the granite walls and heavy decor.
But, when the food arrives, it becomes clear that the chef has traveled the world to learn the art of cooking. We take a bite and our taste buds scintillate with the certainty that no shepherd ever cooked food that tastes this good.
Paparico does not try to redefine traditional Portuguese cuisine. It seeks to refines it in discrete, clever, wonderfully delicious ways.
O Paparico, Rua de Costa Cabral, 2343 Oporto, tel. 225400548. Click here for Paparico’s website.
Looks can be deceiving. Adega S. Nicolau, a restaurant in the Ribeira area of Oporto, has no celebrity chef or design furniture. But it serves amazing food: grilled fish, fried sardines, roasted codfish, fried octopus, and much more. The star of the menu is the “posta de vitela arouquesa” a steak of veal from Arouca seared to perfection, the best we have ever had.
Everything on the menu follows traditional recipes, but the food is hard to imitate. It takes enormous confidence to trust the quality of the ingredients and let them shine through simple preparations. It is this confidence that Adega S. Nicolau has been building since 1930.
Adega S. Nicolau, R. São Nicolau, 1, Ribeira, Oporto. Tel. 222-008-232.
Casa Aleixo’s granite walls have welcomed diners for over one hundred years. This restaurant was first a “tasca,” a place that serves cheap wine and snacks. When it changed hands, in the 1950s, the new owners perfected a small menu of dishes prepared with the best ingredients they could find in the Póvoa do Varzim market. The quality and consistency of the food quickly attracted a loyal following.
Aleixo’s owners use whimsical names to describe different parts of the restaurant: lab for the kitchen, surgery room for the dining room, pharmacy for the wine cellar, and torture chamber for the cashier.
At Aleixo you can eat perfect laminated octopus, tender whitefish fillets, and succulent roasted veal. And, since prices are reasonable, you can go through the torture chamber without enduring much pain.
Casa Aleixo, Rua Estação 216, Oporto, Tel. 225 370 462.
You need to study before eating at Pedro Lemos’ wonderful restaurant in Oporto. You have to learn the taste of roasted suckling pig, the smell of codfish and chickpeas, the texture of veal from Miranda, the saltiness of sardines, the sweetness of rocha pears. Only then will you understand that Lemos is reinventing these traditional Portuguese flavors with imagination and soul.
Pedro Lemos, Rua Padre Luis Cabral, 974, Foz do Douro, Porto, Tel. 220115986, email firstname.lastname@example.org