I’d been looking froward to eating in Portugal for ages, having done some research on Lisbon’s restaurant scene. I found they have some great restaurants, not only in Lisbon but across Portugal. Our first evening in Lisbon meant we had to find a decent restaurant to finish off a lovely day. On my previous research attempts I’d read about a well known chef called Jose Avillez, we decided to go to one of his restaurants called Cantinho do Avillez in the Chiado district of Lisbon. We were their first customers for dinner service, I think it’s more traditional for locals to eat much later on.
The main dining area had a simple feel with nice wooden tables and chairs, reminiscent of my old primary school chairs.
Their food, mainly Portuguese inspired looked really interesting to read, we chose veal trotters with cumin and lemon and aldereja pork to start with, followed by the Cantinho steak and scallops with asparagus, tomato and sweet potato. A bottle of Portuguese Viognier was the drink of choice.
A basket of bread with assorted accompaniments were brought to our table, olives and a roasted tomato and garlic sauce. The bread was lovely, I was careful not to just dive into the bread like I would normally, then be full half way through the meal. The tomato and garlic sauce was a real winner, rich in both ingredients.
The waiter brought our first dish, a plate of Alentejano ham, also known as Iberian ham. Thinly sliced with robust flavour and delicious fat that melted in your mouth. I could have easily demolished it all, but it wasn’t even my chosen starter!!!
My starter came as a little surprise. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, as it came in a little cast iron pot and when it was unveiled it looked like a soup with bits of stuff in it!!
Using bread as a vehicle to hold the soup, I found it very tasty, it had a gelatinous feel about it in the mouth. A soup with chunks of veal with rendered down fat in it. I couldn’t really taste the cumin and lemon very much and it could have down with a little more if I’m honest. It was tasty nonetheless. A decent start, with the wine was going down well, when the main courses arrived we were not disappointed.
The Cantinho steak, a fillet with cured ham draped over the top of it was a real triumph, cooked to perfection (medium rare as requested). With its buttery sauce and potato accompaniment was a match made in heaven.
Yeah ok steak and chips, but these were not any steak and chips. The potatoes were sliced into discs a few millimetres thick, cooked till they were crisp and golden. Even better than the humble chip I was told, I tried one and they were fantastic. The steak, lovely and soft with the saltiness from the ham was to die for. When I asked my fellow diner if it was any good, I got a delayed response back where they were obviously in steak heaven!!
My scallops were as amazing, cooked fantastically well with a lovely crust and as soft as you like inside. It tasted heavenly!!! The accompaniments were not bit parts though, lovely and sweet asparagus, cherry tomatoes were sour enough with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to give some acidity to the dish.
We ordered desserts, an orange and vanilla creme brûlée and caramelised fruit salad with yoghurt sauce. The creme brûlée arrived with a golden caramelised top, a lovely crack was heard and underneath was a creamy custard with the perfect balance of vanilla and orange. My fruit salad was more of a palate cleanser and a great dish to end with. Slightly sweetened fruits with a sugar syrup and then dusted with sugar and caramelised giving different textures as well as flavours from the assortment of fruits (pineapple, apple, grape and strawberry), the yoghurt sauce kept it refreshing bringing it altogether.
I would recommend this place highly, great cooking and service, an interesting menu and a good choice of wines.Cantinho do Avillez Rua dos Duques de Bragança, 7 1200-162 Lisboa + 351 21 199 23 69 http://www.joseavillez.pt/en#/en/cantinho-do-avillez