Saturday, December 13, 2008
I just spent a weekend in Lisbon and ate at two new and very fab restaurants: Bocca near the Parque Eduardo VII in the city center area, and Arola in nearby Sintra at the Penha Longa Hotel & Golf Resort. They are both must-eat places. Bocca serves up a completely different menu at lunch and dinner and it's the dinner menu that is the most amazing. (Lunch is a more casual affair, without the multi-course tasting menu.) The young chef, Alexandre Silva, creates delicacies that look like mini works of art. He firmly takes his inspiration from traditional Portuguese recipes and then he turns them on their heads. Even if you get the tasting menu, try to get someone at your table to also order the cheese sampler -- it includes varieties from some of the country's major cheese regions -- as well as the interesting convento dessert that's a deconstructed trio of typical egg-based Portuguese desserts that originated in the convents. Because I never can drink more than a glass of wine at a sitting, I was please to find out they have 60 wines by the glass. Quite unusual and they've got great picks, including a Portuguese ice wine. (Obviously, it's made artificially but still very smooth and tasty.) I walked away totally satisfied.
And Arola is the restaurant of noted Spanish chef, Sergi Arola. It's his first eatery in Portugal. The decor is a futuristic Mediterranean style, minimalist with touches of turquoise. They've even got an in-house DJ spinning electronic music. Definitely worth driving to the club house to sample his signature tapas and other dishes. Arola trained with Ferran Adria so expect the unexpected in terms of flavors and textures, including a touch of molecular gastronomy. Of course his patatas bravas are on the menu; they are served at all of his restaurants. I heard that when the restaurant first opened the golfers were more than a little shocked by this very unconventional club house restaurant. But they're getting used to it. I wish I were there when it was warm: the outdoor terrace with views of the 18th hole looked perfect.