Memorable fish

Os Arcos Composit- ©mariarebelophotography.com

The Portuguese like to eat their fish by the sea. Since Lisbon is located on the Tagus river, its residents have to drive to a nearby beach whenever they want to enjoy a serious fish meal. The Bugio lighthouse conveniently marks the place where the Tagus meets the sea. It is not a coincidence that Paço d’Arcos, the beach town that overlooks the Bugio, has several fish restaurants.

Os Arcos (which means “the arches”) serves some of the best fish we have ever had. The restaurant occupies an ancient building constructed shortly after the 1755 earthquake. The dining room features old wood beams and the brick and mortar arches that inspired the restaurant’s name.

The  specialty of Os Arcos is “robalo no capote” (fish baked in bread). The fish is covered with a thin layer of bread and baked in the oven for about 30 minutes. That is just the right amount of time to enjoy some clams from Algarve and shrimp from Cascais.

When the fish-shaped bread arrives at the table, the experienced waiter gives the guests a couple of minutes to say their oohs and ahs. He then divides the fish, removing all the bones. Everybody eats in silence, for there are no words to describe the taste of the succulent robalo and the delicious bread that envelops it.

Any serious fish lover who visits Lisbon should drive, hike, bike, swim or run to Paço d’Arcos because eating “robalo” baked in bread at Os Arcos is simply unforgettable.

Os Arcos is located on Rua Costa Pinto, 47 in Paço de Arcos, tel. 214-433-374. Click here for their website.

Becoming famous

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Portuguese love codfish so much that the easiest way to become famous in Portugal is to create a popular codfish recipe.  Writers might see their books go out of print, painters might see their works gather dust. But no one forgets Brás, Zé do Pipo, and Gomes de Sá because their recipes are part of our daily life.

In a recent visit to Tasca da Esquina, chef Victor Sobral prepared us a surprise menu. One of the items was a very refined version of codfish Brás style, the best we have ever tried. Imagine how Brás would feel, seeing his century-old recipe come alive in the hands of a great contemporary chef!

We wish we could write a longer post but we have to go, we bought some codfish to try a few ideas.

The octopus capital

St. Luzia (Polvo) Composit

The best octopus in Portugal comes from Santa Luzia, a small village near Tavira in the Algarve. The locals proudly call it octopus capital.

The shores of Santa Luzia are full of small shrimp that attract the octopi. Old-time fishermen lay clay pots called “alcatruz” in the water. The octopi cuddle in these pots to sleep and get caught when the pots are removed from the water.

Younger fishermen don’t like to wait for the mollusks to fall asleep, so they prefer to use a “covo,” a plastic trap with a sardine inside.

Old timers swear that the octopus caught with the alcatruz tastes much better than the one caught with the covo. But young and old agree that Casa do Polvo is a great place to eat octopus. There are many preparations to choose from, including carpaccio, stewed, fried, and roasted. Our favorite is “polvo panado,” octopus combined with egg and bread crumbs and then fried. No matter which preparation you choose, the octopus is tender and delicious.

If you’re traveling in the Algarve, it is a great idea to include Santa Luzia on your itinerary. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful meal and earn the right to brag that you’ve visited the octopus capital.

Casa do Polvo is on Avenida Eng. Duarte Pacheco, N. 8, Santa Luzia, Tavira. Tel. 281-328-527. In the Summer reservations are a must.

A meal with friends

CL Logo In France they call it “pot au feu, “ in Italy “bollito misto,” in Spain “cocido Madrileño.” In Portugal we call it “cozido.” The concept is the same, but the taste differs remarkably from region to region. Cuts of meats that require long periods of cooking are combined with sausages, potatoes, chickpeas, cabbages, and other vegetables. There are no gimmicks, no complex sauce reductions, no overpowering spices, only great ingredients.

In the island of Azores, they prepare the cozido by burying the pot in volcanic soil, where it cooks slowly in geothermal heat. There are no volcanos in continental Portugal, so we have to use regular stoves to do the cooking.

One of the best cozidos is served every Sunday by Companhia das Lezírias, near Vila Franca de Xira, 50 Kms from Lisbon. It is a posh cozido made with wild game that imparts a unique taste to the preparation.

Trying this delicacy requires planing, since it is indispensable to make reservations  in advance. Call the Companhia das Lezírias to book a table for a group of friends and, when the time comes, you’ll enjoy a very satisfying meal in the company of very happy friends. CL cozido

Click here for the website of the restaurant and here for directions. You can make reservations by calling 263 654 985 or emailing rest.coudelaria@clix.pt. 

100 maneiras

The name is a play on words. “Cem maneiras” means one-hundred ways. But trade the “c” for an “s,” and you get “sem maneiras,” which means without etiquette. Both expressions hint at what makes this tiny restaurant in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto so special.

Yugoslavian chef Ljubomir Stanisic is a magician who combines traditional Portuguese ingredients in inventive ways. But his restaurant is not one of those culinary temples where diners must eat in reverent silence, heads bowed in a show of appreciation for the chef’s genius. The atmosphere at 100 Maneiras is unpretentious, and the only important etiquette rule is that guests have some great gourmet fun.

Restaurante 100 Maneiras, Rua do Teixeira, 35, Bairro Alto, tel. 910 307 575, email: info@restaurante100maneiras.com. Click here for 100 Maneiras’ web site.