There are plenty of “tascas” in Lisbon, small informal restaurants that offer seasonal menus at low prices. But when locals want to have a nice meal with friends or family, they don’t go to a tasca. They prefer to pay a little bit more and eat at a neighborhood restaurant with better ingredients and service.
One of our favorite neighborhood restaurants in Lisbon is Dom Feijão (Sir Bean), a place with generous portions, modest prices and top-notch ingredients. What’s the catch? You have to be persistent to get a reservation or be prepared to wait for a table. The waiters don’t answer the reservations phone line when they’re very busy and they’re almost always very busy.
The restaurant is popular with families, on our last visit the place was full of grandparents, parents and children sharing the pleasures of the table.
Before we had time to open the menu, our waiter brought us some delicious fried marinated sardines and a plate of the same black-pork prosciutto they serve in heaven on special occasions.
We’d seen a large “sável,” a prized river fish, in the restaurant’s refrigerator so we asked the waiter whether we could order it. “Not today,” he replied “The sável has to be thinly sliced and marinated for a few hours. Sorry, but we cannot rush the preparation.”
We ordered instead poached cherne (sea bream). It was deliciously succulent, a reminder that when the ingredients are perfect, simple preparations are the best.
Next, we had grilled “secretos,” divine slices of fatty black pork. Two decades ago, these cuts of black pork were exported to Spain. Since then, the Portuguese have wised up and started consuming them. Exports suffered but our happiness boomed.
We ended the meal with some grilled codfish. The waiter asked what was our favorite part of the codfish so he could ask the chef to prepare it. Large tranches of codfish swimming with roasted potatoes in a sea of olive oil made our delights.
We told chef João Araújo how much we enjoyed the meal. “We’re a simple restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese food,” he said. “Our only luxury is the ingredients we use.” This is, of course, the kind of luxury we fancy.
Dom Feijão is located near the posh Avenida de Roma at Largo Machado de Assis 7 D, tel. 21 846 4038. There’s a convenient paid garage underneath the restaurant. You can ask the waiter to validate your parking.