Portugal on the Tables of the World

Words: Teresa Castro Viana

From São Paulo to London, Singapore to Dubai, Portuguese cuisine is getting noticed on dinner tables around the world. It stands out for its complex flavours, simple ingredients and traditional ways of cooking. For its connection to the sea, for the savoury small bites, for the sweets and of course for the wine. Bon appétit and enjoy your trip.


Tasca da Esquina

For more than a decade, Tasca da Esquina has been an iconic destination on São Paulo’s foodie scene, having been voted the best Portuguese restaurant in the city on a number of occasions. But Vitor Sobral hasn’t stopped there, and his second space opened in early 2023 at Pinheiros, another location in the financial centre of Brazil.

In both restaurants, Portuguese dishes are the star, though they are made with local ingredients to add some freshness to traditional recipes. Among the many options are the codfish moqueca with mashed cassava and coriander, the battered codfish in an orange cream sauce and sautéed vegetables, the marinated octopus with creamed cassava, coconut milk and vinaigrette dressing, the sautéed squid with fresh palm heart slivers, the duck rice with pancetta and Portuguese chouriço and the chocolate mousse with a jabuticaba fruit compote and caramelised nut farofa. Besides the carte du jour, there’s also a lunch menu from Tuesday to Friday, and a gourmet tasting menu featuring seven courses.

Inspired by a lifelong legacy from the other side of the ocean, Vitor Sobral serves genuine Portuguese cuisine, faithful to the recipe books but open to the flavours of the moment. On Portuguese soil, he is behind Tasca da Esquina and Taberna da Esquina in Lisbon, and Lota da Esquina in Cascais, in what is considered the biggest venture of his entire career.


Tuga

The codfish dishes, the seafood rice and the roast octopus with sweet potato are some of the best-sellers on Tuga’s menu, a restaurant which opened in Singapore in May 2020, with the intention of “showing Portugal at its most authentic”, says chef Luís Barradas. But that’s not all: certain dishes that even in Portugal aren’t to everyone’s taste, such as the gizzards, codfish tongues and pigs’ feet with coriander, have proven to be popular on the other side of the globe. “The focus of our menu is firmly on taste and tradition.” Even so, they have gone for “a personal touch in the case of certain dishes, particularly the vegetarian options, to offer a more diverse and modern taste experience for our customers,” adds Luís Barradas.

“Our enormous passion and pride in Portuguese culture and history, and the way these have influenced the world, particularly in Asia” are behind this project where wine, good food and culture mingle side-by-side. The decor reminds us of a wine cellar, where the artwork of some of the country’s greatest icons such as Amália Rodrigues and Fernando Pessoa catch the eye, the soundtrack is Portuguese, and we can also take a piece of Portugal back home with us, from the gourmet store stocked with national produce. “Tuga is more than a restaurant. It is an authentic immersion in the culture, cuisine and welcoming spirit of Portugal.”


Lisboeta

It opened in London in 2022, with the desire to capture “the essence of Lisbon between four walls”. Not just through its food, but also the wine, the decor, and the atmosphere. We’re talking about Lisboeta, the restaurant with top chef Nuno Mendes at the helm, in a Charlotte Street location with a bar covered in lioz, limestone flooring from the Sintra region meant to imitate the stone pavements of Lisbon, wooden cabinets and emerging Portuguese artists on the walls.

“Lisboeta is a love letter to my city, and that’s why the menu has dishes that are a firm fixture on the Lisbon culinary map. As it is our capital, different regional influences converge here,” the chef explains.

Small bites, cheeses, pan dishes and platters make up a menu meant for sharing, in true Portuguese fashion, tweaked according to the time of day: there’s codfish bacalhau à Bras, a mushroom açorda broth, Algarvian garlic and piri-piri prawns, seafood rice, grilled black pig cutlets, cream puffs and a Portuguese biscuit cake. Some have been on the menu since the very beginning, “inspired by classic lisboeta dishes” and which tell the story of the city, the country, and our traditions. To complement, and to toast a rich heritage, there are over 100 wines to choose from, all Portuguese.


Tasca

José Avillez needs no introduction, and his food is synonymous with creativity, technique and taste. Tasca, on the 6th floor of the hotel Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, in Dubai, opened in 2019 and is the chef’s first international venture. Awarded one star in the first-ever Dubai Michelin Guide, it takes its inspiration from the traditional Portuguese restaurant. “I believe Portugal has one of the best cuisines in the world, as well as the best fish and seafood, and my goal is to showcase some of our greatest flavours and products with a contemporary spin. Tasca is meant to be a casual and chic dining experience, with specialities full of character and flavour,” says chef José Avillez.

The dishes — Algarvian shrimp ceviche, pica-pau, prawn moqueca, codfish à Gomes de Sá, piri-piri chicken with a smoked avocado cream
sauce, octopus à lagareiro, pastel de nata with coffee ice cream, and more — blend the traditional and contemporary and are organised into different categories, from small bites to traditional dishes, alongside signature creations. For options to accompany the meal, there is the Portuguese wine menu, the most extensive in Dubai, and a signature cocktail menu.

Besides the fixed menu, there is a tasting menu option, with some of the chef’s most celebrated dishes. On Saturdays, brunch is served with a view towards Dubai, on one side, and the Persian Gulf, on the other.

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