Noah surf house

Noah Composit

If you’re looking for the perfect place for a romantic date, we suggest you try Noah Surf House, a restaurant in the Santa Cruz beach, 40 miles north of Lisbon.

The restaurant building is minimalistic, designed to frame the gorgeous ocean views. The space is furnished with colorful tables and benches made from reclaimed wood, as if to stress that everything on the beach is a gift from the sea. The sea is also the inspiration for the menu, which includes clams Bulhão Pato, fish soup, shrimp with garlic, octopus salad, seafood rice, and fried fish with tomato rice.

If you go to Noah for lunch during Fall or Winter you might have the privilege of having this magical place to yourself. If you go for dinner during Spring or Summer, you’re likely to find the restaurant full of beautiful people who gather here to enjoy the setting of the sun.

It is impossible not to fall in love with Noah. And it is easy to fall in love with the person who brought you there.

Noah Surf House is on Avenida do Atlantico, A dos Cunhados,  tel 261 932 355. Click here for their web site.

 

The glorious food of a rural past

Composit - solar dos amigosWhen you dine at Solar dos Amigos, you take a trip back to a time when people grew their own food, so cooking was informed by a deep knowledge of ingredients.

We realized that our meal was going to be extraordinary when Luisa Nunes, the restaurant owner, brought a small plate of pataniscas (fried codfish) that were wonderfully light and full of flavor. We liked them so much that we tried two other codfish preparations. The first was Tiborna, roasted codfish combined with potatoes, olive oil, and garlic. It is a traditional recipe, but this version shined because of the pristine ingredients and immaculate execution. The second was codfish campino style, a delicious, airy combination with cabbage and white beans baked inside a country bread.

Our first meat dish, fried lamb chops, reminded us of how extraordinary the taste of lamb can be. The grand finale was Cascos à Ribatejo—veal grilled in the huge fireplace of the main dining room. The veal was succulent, tender, and deeply satisfying.

Throughout the meal, different types of bread and vegetable sides were brought to our table: an unforgettable warm corn bread (broa) seasoned with garlic and olive oil, a hearty bean rice, and much more. The food was blissfuly married with the house wine, a bold red produced by Luisa’s octogenarian father.

Luisa is a master of the art of hospitality. Even though the restaurant has four spacious dining rooms, she seems to be everywhere, chatting with regulars, welcoming new clients, making sure the food and service are perfect. Luisa loves the restaurant so much that she never vacations and feels bored on Wednesdays, the day Solar dos Amigos closes. It is her passion that makes dining at Solar dos Amigos such an exceptional experience.

The greatest food in Portugal was not inspired by the kitchens of palaces and noble houses. It comes from a rural tradition that is perfectly reflected in the food of Solar dos Amigos.

Solar dos Amigos is located on a small village called Guisado, 100 km north of Lisbon. The restaurant’s address is Rua Principal, 49, Guisado, Caldas da Rainha. Even though the restaurant is large, it is a good idea to make reservations. Their telephone number is 262-877-135. Click here for their website.

 

Our favorite restaurant in Sintra

Azenhas do Mar Composit

Our favorite restaurant in the Sintra region is not in Sintra. It is in a nearby beach called Azenhas do Mar. If you’re visiting Sintra it is worth traveling the 12 km to restaurant Adega das Azenhas.

Located in an old wine cellar, Adega serves Portuguese fare without a trace of foreign influence. Everything on the menu is simply great: fried codfish, hake fillets, codfish cakes, black pork chops, fried cuttlefish, grilled fish eggs. Some of the most delicious dishes have untranslatable Portuguese names: pasteis de massa tenra, rissois de leitão, cozido à Portuguesa.

If you go to Azenhas do Mar at night you’ll enjoy a great dinner. If you go during the day, you’ll have the added bonus of seeing the gorgeous landscape of the Colares region.

Colares is the plural of colar, a word that means necklace. It is a fitting word to describe this region that surrounds Sintra with beautiful views and delicious food.

Adega das Azenhas is located on the main road that crosses Azenhas do Mar (Avenida Comissão de Melhoramentos, 5), tel 21-928-1357.

Casa de Pasto

Casa de Pasto

Casa de Pasto was the designation given to humble restaurants that served comfort food to country folks, making them feel at home when they visited the city. So, it was with low expectations that we walked up the stairs of a Lisbon restaurant called Casa de Pasto. We were greeted by an exuberant decoration that combines ceramics and artifacts sold in country fairs with a deft sense of design.

The food was a revelation. First, a gazpacho so intense that it could make a Spaniard blush with pride. Then, the freshest sea bass, perfectly grilled, the kind of delight that you can only enjoy in Portugal. Next, we shared a grilled veal T-bone steak, so large and succulent that it would bring tears to the eyes of a Florentine. The meal’s ending was a chocolate mousse so perfect it could convince a Belgian to move to Lisbon.

Casa de Pasto is a restaurant with wonderful food that makes everyone feel at home.

Casa de Pasto us located at Rua de S. Paulo 20, Lisboa, tel 963 739 979. Click here for their website.

Relaxing in the Gerês pousada

Pousada do Gerês

If words could describe how great it is to stay at the Caniçadas pousada in Gerês, you would not need to drive up the Gerês mountain to find this hotel ensconced in the woods, overlooking the Cávado river. But even poets would have trouble putting into words the feeling of starting the day sitting in the hotel’s veranda, our eyes feasting on the spectacular vistas.

The origins of the hotel go back to 1951, when temporary accommodations were built for a group of engineers working on a dam on the Cávado river. Naturally, the engineers chose a location with an amazing view. In 1968, the building was converted into a hotel and an annex was built to house the chauffeurs of the wealthy patrons who came to Gerês to recharge their energies.

The staff of the pousada gave us wonderful recommendations for what to do in Gerês: trails to hike, rivers to swim, horses to ride, traditional villages to visit, and culinary specialties to try.

We greatly enjoyed these activities, but we also loved returning to the pousada at the end of the day to sit in the veranda and watch the sun bid farewell to the Gerês mountain.

The Caniçadas hotel is part of a network of hotels called pousadas. Click here for the pousadas’ website and here for a large collection of photos of the hotel.

Our favorite tasca in Lisbon

Das FloresTascas are modest, inexpensive restaurants that offer a small, seasonal menu. They are often family affairs; the parents cook and the kids wait the tables. The quality of tascas is highly variable, some are good, a few are great, many are just passable.

When tascas become popular, they often have trouble coping with success, and their quality suffers. That is why people who find a great tasca usually like to keep it secret.

We’ll break with these social norms and tell you the name of our favorite tasca in Lisbon: Das Flores in Rua das Flores. This establishment is not to be confused with the more posh (and also very good) Taverna da Rua das Flores located on the same street.

You could write a dissertation about the eating habits of Lisbon residents by studying Das Flores’ menu. It includes items like poached grouper, grilled sole, codfish cakes with tomato rice, pork and clams Alentejo, and grilled lamb chops. All perfectly prepared with pristine ingredients. Many items on the menu cost less than 10 euros, which is why the small dining room is always crowded. The restaurant caters to its regular customers, so it can be difficult to get a table.

Das Flores is not a place for a romantic date. But it is a great choice if you want to experience traditional Portuguese food on a budget. Just don’t tell anyone else, ok?

Das Flores is located on Rua das Flores 76, Lisbon, tel. 21 342 8828. If you do go to Das Flores on a date, skip dessert and go to Landeau on the same street for chocolate cake. It will make the whole experience more glamorous.

The best grilled sardines in Lisbon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best place to eat grilled sardines in Lisbon is Casa do Peixe, a modest restaurant on the second floor of the Saldanha food market. This eatery dates back to the first part of the 20th century, when a cook from Galicia came to Lisbon and set up a few tables in the market to serve poached fish. The restaurant quickly became a destination for food lovers.

The current owner, Aníbal Sousa, bought the restaurant 30 years ago. When the Saldanha market moved from its graceful old building to its current unremarkable location, he added a charcoal grill and started to grill sardines and other fish.

The restaurant is noisy and there is no ambience. But it is always full of locals who love to eat fresh fish, everyone from clerks and shopkeepers to government officials and business executives.

Three cooks work nonstop to produce a constant flow of perfectly cooked treasures from the sea. All the fish is great but the sardines are extraordinary; moist and flavorful, grilled to perfection. We asked Aníbal Sousa what makes his sardines so exceptional. He smiled and said: we have been grilling them for many years and we only serve sardines when they are at the peak of their quality.

If you’re a foodie in search of the perfect grilled sardine, Casa do Peixe is the place for you.

Casa do Peixe is located on Mercado 31 de Janeiro, Rua Engenheiro Vieira da Silva, 135, Saldanha, Lisboa, tel. 213544233.