Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lisbon. Restaurant Tavares. One star.

We arrived in Lisbon and I quickly learned that Portugal was going to be a conflicting country for me. While the thought of port wine was going to be comforting and potentially provide much enjoyment, it was also a country where the culinary landscape was essentially carved into the side of a salted cod.

Yes, salt cod, or bacalhau, one of the most important dishes in Spain, Portugal, Brazil and a number of other countries that really should know better.

The non-culinary landscape was also very shaped. Lisbon was a pretty fucking hilly city. Want to go somewhere? No problem, it's only 200 metres on the map. Oh, wait, it's 200 metres up a sheer cliff face. For someone that spent the greater portion of the last three weeks self-medicating with foie gras, this was not an enticing prospect.

There aren't a whole lot of Michelin starred restaurants in the main cities of Portugal, but there was on in Lisbon that looked like it was worth a visit. It was originally opened something like 200 years ago as a cafe, but has evolved into a room where the only things allowed into it are gold things, mirrors to accentuate gold things, and chefs.

It goes by the name of Tavares. It has one Michelin star.

I think the appetiser pretty much sums up this restaurant: two spoons arrive on a block of wood. One is a spherification of olive; the other a fried olive that may or may not have contained salt cod. In other words, new techniques and old flavours mixing together, sharing the same stage.

And so we found ourselves again in the midst of a degustation. And Tavares wasn't half bad at the act off delivering one. The first proper dish arrives at the table with a cloud of smoke emanating from underneath a glass rectangle that contains a bunch of sea animals, and some white swirls. The sea animals (prawns, clams, etc) are well cooked and it's a damn refreshing dish.

I forget the details of most of the other dishes, but I remember the pigs trotters that are spectacular. Diced up pieces of fat sitting with other excellent flavours, hiding, waiting to stick to your sides. It makes me want to start raising pigs, just so I can chop their feet off and eat them.

While the details aren't sticking out, I do remember it being an enjoyable meal. Maybe the dishes weren't perfect, but there was a lot to like in this room filled with gold and mirrors.

Michelin star tally: 36

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