April 12, 2011

Portugal, Part V: Lisbon's oldest restaurant, opened in 1784, is also the city's most opulent, reminiscent of a palace room.

This Michelin-starred outlet serves Portuguese cuisine that radiates creativity.

An amuse bouche of olives, but like none we've ever seen before. One was a "molecular cuisine" sort that burst open for a liquid explosion on our tongues, while the other was a lightly battered variety similar to fluffy tempura.

Celery cream with smoked ham & truffle oil. First impression: if the complimentary starters were this unabashedly decadent, we could scarcely imagine how the main courses would turn out.

Marinated mackerel in roasted pepper gel & oregano. Not foul or fishy at all, this boasted a briny freshness that put us in the perfect mood for seafood.

"The Garden of the Hen That Laid Golden Eggs." A long-winded name for an elaborate egg recipe with earthy aromas emanating from a complex combo of mushrooms & veggies.

Fruits, veggies, edible flowers, leaves, mushrooms & sprouts _ roasted, fried, sauteed & raw, with Azeitao cheese whey, hazelnut oil & Iberian ham. It's difficult to describe how this tasted, since its complicated flavors evolved miraculously with every bite.

Pig trotters with coriander gelatin & bread from Alentejo. Mushy and boneless; virtually like eating baby food, but with a beguilingly intense porky flavor.

Cod fish Bras style. Essentially salted cod, with potatoes, veggies & Iberian ham. Moist, delicate, and captivatingly presented _ but unmemorable, taste-wise.

Roasted pigeon with Swiss chard, hazelnuts & cinnamon. Terrifically tender and flavorsome meat, but what made this a stupendous standout was the foie gras & black truffle "ferrero rocher" _ a brilliant creation that we'd happily eat all night.

Clams "Bulhao Pato" style. A hugely popular Portuguese recipe, cooked with garlic, white wine, olive oil & cilantro. Deceptively simple, indelibly delicious.

Steak with egg yolk & roasted lettuce heart. This impeccably prepared (impeccable!) medium-rare beef with a runny, creamy yolk left us sighing with satisfaction.

Another intriguingly named dish: "On the beach, on a fire" (visually, we could see why they named it so). Basically roasted red mullet & cuttlefish with squid ink migas & liver sauce. Each mouthful was a cauldron of savory oceanic flavors.

Carla Ferreira Unipessoal, Lda. Portuguese wines? Delectable.