I’m going to jump ahead a bit in our trip, because I am eager to tell you all about a wonderful restaurant we had the pleasure of dining at in Porto, Portugal. I’ll start off by telling you that we both fell in LOVE with Portugal- both Lisbon and Porto – the people, food, scenery, culture, everything really. To me, Portugal holds all of the charms of other popular European destinations like Italy and France, but doesn’t have the high prices. I’ll be blogging more about this fantastic country, but I’d like to introduce you to Pedro Lemos to start off.
Pedro Lemos is the name of the restaurant where J and I had our one “splurge” meal, when we decided to break from the casual meals we’d been eating thus far on the trip and give fine dining a shot. After doing some searching on the internet, we decided to go to Pedro Lemos, the namesake restaurant of the chef, who, from what we read, was taking food from his Portuguese upbringing and elevating it to another level. Needless to say, we were very excited.
After a short taxi ride from our hotel, we came upon the beautiful space, with downstairs dining room for nonsmokers, an upstairs gilded dining room for smokers plus a bar, and an outdoor patio on the roof for those who prefer to dine al fresco. The greeting from Sommelier/manager Eduardo Neto couldn’t have been warmer- he expressed his delight in our visit and showed us to a candlelit table in the main dining room downstairs. Off to a great start!
The restaurant offers a varied a la carte menu as well as two different prix fixe menus- one five course, and one seven course. We wanted to go with the seven course but J isn’t crazy about foie gras (because he’s crazy, ha!) which was the first course, but after Eduardo assured us that the chef would replace J’s foie with something else, we decided to go for it, including the wine pairings. All of the wine (with the exception of champagne) on the list are from Portugal, and not having had much Portuguese wine knowledge, we were really looking forward to trying many kinds.
The meal started off with freshly baked bread, served with a fresh, soft cheese- similar to homemade ricotta- studded with fresh chives which was delicious. We also had the option to dip our warm bread into local, Portuguese olive oil, which was green and bright. We tried to eat the bread slowly, but tell me- what’s better than freshly baked bread…with cheese…and olive oil? What could be more appetizing?! If we didn’t have seven courses coming I think we would have been perfectly happy to sit and eat that bread all night.
By the way: Sorry for the dark photos- I didn’t want to use a flash, so this is the best I could do with my camera phone!
Ravioli de borras de Porto com foie gras recheado, em consumme de Rabo de Boi mergulhado- From the lees of port wine, the ravioli stuffed with foie gras from the ox tail, the aromatic consumme.
You can’t see it- but underneath this slice of perfectly seared foie gras is the ravioli, made from squid ink pasta and filled with shredded ox tail and more foie. What’s not to like?! As rich as this dish sounds, it was actually quite light.
Bacalhau de boas recordacoes, sobre gelatin das bochechas a posta desfiada num ourico com seu aveludado, acompanhada das caras num caldo de poejas- The codfish from Chef memories, shredded in sea urchin shape, filled with its velvet chowder and set on a cheek gelatin & pennyroyal broth.
Bacalhau (salted cod fish) is practically the national food of Portugal and you see it on almost every menu in the country. In this preparation it was served in a “shell” made to look like that of a sea urchin- using shredded potatoes and floating in a beautiful broth. This was one of our favorite dishes of the night.
Vieira corada numa cigala espetada- A sea scallop in a spit with masala
Another favorite- the seared scallop is actually hiding underneath the large shrimp, and it was served with a wonderfully briny oyster and paired with an apple and endive salad.
Codorniz de capoeria, cogumelos, espargos e macas moribundas- The farm raised quail, mushrooms, asparagus and baby apples
I LOVE quail, and this one was seasoned perfectly- the teeny, tiny apples (local, of course) it was served with were remarkable- they looked just like cherries, but tasted like tart apples sweetened with warm spice. The dish reminded me of the holidays.
Corvina de anzol, em tranche num engaco abafada- The meagre fish, stilfed in rake.
We’d never heard of “meagre” fish before, but after some investigating, it seems it is a fish found in abundance in the Mediterranean Sea with increasing popularity, especially in Italy. It was a firm, meaty fish that was delicious. It came with cabbage, turnips and a tender, sweet chestnut that went so well with the fish, I only wished there were more on the plate.
O Leitao da nossa interpretacao- The suckling pig, from our interpretation
Ah, roasted, suckling pig. A very popular dish in Portugal, it was on my list of things to eat while there. For this dish, the chef slow-roasted a whole, suckling pig, shredded the meat, then compacted it back together in a cube and topped it with a square of crispy, salty, gorgeous pig skin. The deep fried parsnips and taro root were also crispy and light, and the orange foam was a nice touch to cut through the richness of the pork.
Crème fresco de limao com mousse de queijo- Fresh lemon cream in a cheese mousse.
This light, lemon mousse tasted like a very mild cheesecake, topped with crumbs and paired with thin rounds of rich, dark chocolate. Really incredible.
Baunilha “Bourbon” e framboesas- Bourbon vanilla and raspberries in a sponge cream.
A raspberry and vanilla whipped cream encased in layers of “caramelized” pastry, served with beetroot sorbet which was an eye opener. It tasted exactly like earthy, sweet beets but when paired with the rest of the dessert, it created a perfect harmony. I especially loved the flaky pastry coated in caramelized sugar. Wow.
Each course was paired with wine chosen by Eduardo who carefully explained the origin and properties of each one as we went along. The standout for me was the late harvest wine he served with dessert- the smell of it (similar to a muscat wine) literally made my mouth water, and it was so good that I actually purchased a bottle to take home. He was kind enough to line up all of the bottles once we were finished, so I could take a photo:
After our meal, Chef Pedro Lemos came out and spoke to us about his culinary journey to finally realize his dream of owning his own restaurant. He’d had a successful career in engineering, but decided to leave it behind (much to the dismay of family and friends) to follow his passion for food, which he’d had ever since he was a small child. After studying and working with numerous master chefs, he spent a few years in Lisbon before returning to his roots and opening up a restaurant in his hometown of Porto. If I remember correctly (we did have a bit of wine!) he said he’d only been cooking professionally for a few years, which just shows if you have a passion that strong for something, you can succeed. Although his food is very refined, every dish is created from one he ate growing up and is his personal interpretation of the Portuguese food he loves.
J, Chef Pedro Lemos, Sommelier/manager Eduardo Neto, me
Both Chef Pedro and Sommelier/manager Eduardo Neto are extremely committed to showcasing local ingredients and wine, and are two of the most passionately devoted people I’ve ever met. It was very clear that it is their mission to introduce people to Portuguese cuisine done on a fine dining scale, and if you ever have the good fortune of being in the beautiful city of Porto, I highly recommend you pay them a visit. It’s a culinary journey through the best the country has to offer, created by one of the country’s most promising and talent young chefs.
We were very lucky to have had the experience and will remember our meal for years to come.
Rua do Padre Luis Cabral, 974
4150-459 Porto, Portugal
Tel: (351) 22-011-59-86