- Posted May 25, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Tell us the Good Stuff!
Good Food in Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal is now the greatest destination for the world traveler, according to many travel magazines and with good reason. Good climate, inexpensive packages, historical city, friendly people, great night life and above all, fabulous gastronomy.
Walking the old cobbled stone streets of Lisbon, you can find restaurants for all tastes and pockets, many with choice to eat outside. It seems that the Portuguese people cannot live without a restaurant or a café almost in every corner.
When you stop to look at the menus posted at windows, your biggest problem is not how much can you afford but what to choose from such a variety of fish dishes such as the typical “bacalhau” or “grilled sardines”, to dozens of meat dishes of pork, beef or lamb etc… All this can be appreciated sitting outside with a good glass of red or white wine, many times to the sound of street musicians playing old romantic songs.
It was on one of this late spring evenings, that walking in downtown Lisbon, I came up to a small restaurant named “Destino” Destiny in English. Maybe it was the title that made me stop. First, I though. Will it be another tourist trap? Seeing so many locals and tourist, I figure that not all those people would be there if it wasn’t good. I approach the menu and got very surprise with the value and the amount of food on the dishes.
I sat down at a table outside, covered with a clean red and white tablecloth, so common in Latin countries. In a few seconds I was approached by a friendly waiter, with broken English, and a menu in a variety of languages. The waiter asked me if I was interested on some starters. After some hesitation, I decide to go with a local small cheese, olives bread and small jar of house red wine. I ordered for main course, the grilled tuna steak with tomatoes and onions stewed sauce, garnished with potatoes and sauté escarole. It smells great and the tuna was perfectly cooked. Not dry, so common in many restaurants.
While waiting for the food, I observed the people passing by, some old ladies talking, someone trying to sell something to someone that doesn’t want to buy it and the usual end of the day rush hour. The evening Portuguese rush hour look to me, more like the normal time in New York City but at much slower pace. Let’s not forget that, this is South Europe and life, even at rush hour it must be taken in slow motion.
During my dinner, a young man called Pedro came to my table and with a big smile on his face, introduced himself as the restaurant owner, he asked me how everything was and if I need anything else. I told him how everything was delicious and the wine very good. He explained to me that the wine was from a southern region of Portugal named Alentejo and the tuna was fresh from the catch of the day. I asked him a few more questions to which he answers in pretty good English. Peter told me that, he and his wife also own another restaurant called “Marisqueira (seafood) Camoes” in a small resort town of Cascais, fifteen miles west of Lisbon on the coast.
After finish my tuna, I could not resist the desert tray with all types of sinful “goodies” and I figure that you only live once, so I went for the “house desert”. A delicious cream topped with shortcake crumbs.
After a small espresso coffee and liquor, complement of Pedro, I paid my bill that came to 22.50 Euros, approximately US$30.00 with a 23 per cent VAT tax included. All VAT taxes in Portugal are 23 per cent. Not a bad price for a meal on a continent, that is no longer cheap to eat in a restaurant for tourists, even for Americans. It was real good and plenty of food, cheap, charming and friendly place.
On the next time you are in Lisbon and hungry go to “Destino” at: 78, Rua das Portas de Santo Antao, in downtown Lisbon and say hello to Pedro for me.
Thanks Pedro and good luck. I will be back!