March 20, 2011

A Esquina da Fé, Lisbon. October, 2009

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. Fresh ingredients prepared and presented in an uncomplicated, straightforward way. Almost “home cooking” in its easy, honest goodness. Jay and I had sought out this small neighborhood restaurant that we’d heard about on some internet chatboard. Unassuming and removed from the tourist scene, it had about a dozen tables and seemed patronized by guys -- single men, buddies, workers, men who wanted a beer or two, to watch the soccer game on TV, to eat a solid meal with like-minded companions. Like us. We were welcomed by the owner and patiently walked through the simple, Portuguese-only menu. (The chef, seen here, whose portrait taken 25 years earlier in his same kitchen hung on the wall, sang as he cooked. A good sign.) To start, Jay had grilled squid (perfect) and I had the homestyle sopa à alentejana I’d read about: rich chicken stock, some cilantro, slices of bread, an egg broken on top. Simple, wonderful. A grilled fish for Jay, and a half order (their advice, huge!) of cozido à portuguesa for me: a big bowl of meats, sausages, potatoes, vegetables, broth. It was our first real introduction to the massive size of Portuguese portions. As we left, handshakes all around, some pictures taken, an enthusiastic request to come again the following night, which we considered because of the great food, the warm atmosphere. Instead, we went “bistro,” which was fine, but lacked the simple, honest, personal appeal of A Esquina da Fé.

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