Lisbon = seafood and I love it! I honestly knew nothing about Lisbon before I arrived, but one thing I did do before going was listen to some Rick Steves podcasts about Portugal. There was one focused on just food, so I was definitely excited to try some seafood. If you’re ever walking around alone in Europe, I highly recommend downloading Rick Steves’ app and listening to the tracks about wherever you are. Great way to pass the time as you go from place to place and learn more about different attractions, cuisines, and cultures.
I got to Lisbon on Friday night, and took my time getting to dinner – I had a place in mind, but I read on TripAdvisor that there are always lines. Sure enough, when I reached Cervejaria Ramiro at 10:30 pm, there was a line of about 20 people! Luckily they were all a part of one big group, and I was seated within 10 minutes. I didn’t find this out until later but “cervejaria” basically means beer hall, which explains the rowdiness of the whole place.
They give you an iPad with a menu that has pictures on it, which is pretty helpful. The prices are listed in grams, which I had no frame of reference for, but when I said the 3 things I wanted, the waiter said I should get small sizes for all of them.
I ordered shrimp with garlic, crab, and giant tiger prawns. The shrimp with garlic was delicious and came in this butter sauce that was great for dipping everything else in. Everything tasted really fresh! The crab is served as all of the legs and claws, but then they mix some crab meat with some stuff (I really have no way to describe this) and put it in the shell. It was… interesting. I wasn’t really sure what I should or shouldn’t have been eating in there, although I’m sure it was all fine. One travesty is that I didn’t eat the crab meat in the legs. I was a) too full, and b) given this hammer that you can see in the top left – I’m used to being given a crab cracker and felt really awkward using the hammer even with all the noise in the place.
At Gambrinus, here’s some sole with a lemon butter sauce that I paid way too much for for lunch on Sunday.
Portugal’s national dish is bacalhau, or salt cod, even though it’s all from Norway. They say there are 365 ways to prepare it. At Restaurante Carmo, I just got one of the most popular variations – bacalhau a bras, which is made of cod, rice, scrambled eggs, onions, and black olives. I was expecting just a piece of fish with the vegetables on the side, so this was a nice surprise! I liked it, although I wasn’t too sure how much cod vs. onions there really were in it.
Not to be outdone, pork is also very popular in Portugal. Also at Carmo, I had some pata negra:
This was sooo good. The ham is from pigs who are only fed acorns or grains, or a mix of both (not sure which one this was) which changes the flavor and quality of the meat.
On Saturday night, I ate at Joao do Grao, which was a little too touristy. It’s never good when the menu comes in 10 different languages. I ordered carne de porco alentejana – fried pork with clams. When this came out, I was a little worried because of the fries. Yes, the fries sucked but the rest was pretty good. This was actually my first time eating clams! Not bad.
The one thing that Lisbon is REALLY famous for is pastel de nata, a pastry made with eggs. When I read about them and saw pictures, I thought, “hmm, these sound like dan tats,” which are Chinese egg tarts that you eat at the end of dim sum. I read that the Belem district, about 25 minutes away by bus from central Lisbon, is the best place to get them, so I made the trek over there.
In Belem, they’re so special that they’re called pasteis de belem, which is also the name of the bakery. This place was insane! There was a line out the door, but it moved pretty fast. When I took a bite of them, I thought, “hmm, these taste like dan tats.” I looked up dan tat online, and basically the only places where these are popular are Portugal and Hong Kong/Macau! Weird but cool. But makes sense, when you realize that Macau used to be a colony of Portugal. The more you know.
I do think these were slightly better than dan tats though; they were sweeter. Usually I don’t like dan tats enough to make it to the end of one. Also the cup is made of puff pastry and while the cup in dan tats are usually more dense, flour based.
One thing to note as you eat through Lisbon is that they will always put down a basket of bread on your table – this is not free! You can refuse it or just not touch it and they won’t put it on your bill, but if you do eat it, it costs a euro or two. I definitely broke down on this a time or two.