Senhor Vinho

March 15, 2011

Portugal, Part I: Established in 1975 (a year before I was born!), this remarkable restaurant is reputedly one of Lisbon's best spots to enjoy "fado" performances _ a Portuguese musical heritage marked by mournful music and lovelorn lyrics.

Intermittently during dinner _ which stretches for hours _ female singers stand amid the tables to belt out evocative ballads on life and loss, accompanied only by guitarists. Everyone remains hushed, mesmerized by the powerful voices.

Among the artists we witnessed this evening was Filipa Cardoso, a winner of Lisbon's "Fado's Great Night" competition. Taking photographs of performances is permitted but not encouraged, since the lights are dimmed and the singers might get distracted by cameras.

Traditional Portuguese favorites are the menu's cornerstone. Humble fare, but prices are exorbitant by Lisbon's standards.

A rather hearty amuse bouche of octopus salad with goat cheese.

Bacalhau (salted codfish). An acquired taste for those of us who prefer our cod lightly cooked to retain its natural sweetness. Not particularly moist either.

Dishing out the rice stew with monkfish & prawns.

Watery, but steaming hot and wholesome. Seemed like something that might be served at regular Portuguese homes. Comfort food, in its own way.

All in all, a pleasant place, but a bit far off from the city center. Still, we had to make reservations several months in advance, since the place gets packed even on a weeknight. Encouragingly, the customers seem overwhelmingly local (they could sing along to several of the choruses!).

Senhor Vinho,