O Jardim—Sr. Lisboa
There’s never been a better time to eat in and around Lisbon. When I arrived six years ago, there was some excellent food—and a new wave of chefs working to put Portuguese ingredients and traditions in the spotlight—but frankly not all that much variety. No longer. And this just a snapshot. In the past year or so, the city welcomed newcomers (listed here alphabetically) specializing in Goan, Brazilian, vegetarian, Chinese, Italian, a whole lot of excellent Japanese, and some very well executed surrealism.
Aura Dim Sum
The only place in Lisbon for proper dim sum, Aura Dim Sum Lab (as it was then known) developed a cult following almost as soon as it arrived in Portugal, in 2019. (Brazilian chef Cristina Goya and her Spanish partner, Jose Luís Suárez, tried it first in Bahia.) Goya’s backstory is long—including training with a London dim sum master who is so special he can’t be named, and then learning Chinese to study with his master in Singapore—but the results are so good that the business quickly outgrow its original bricks and mortar location and reopened this summer in a new space that’s more than twice the size. There’s now a kitchen ten of 10 (for a 38-seat restaurant!) preparing every dough, filling and sauce for the steamed, fried and pan-fried dumplings, shumai, wontons and bao, plus Asian salads and Vietnamese specialties.
With its gorgeous location on the beach south of Lisbon in Caparica, impressive design, yoga programming, lifestyle boutique and overall vibe, Casa Reîa could probably get by on its good looks alone. But the food is also worth a trip. There are three chefs, Brazilian grill master Dário Costa, Israeli nutritionist and “vegetable & fruit advocate” Udi Barkan, and Brazilian chef Pedro Lima, who runs the busy kitchen. The menu ranges from Mediterranean-style salads such as zucchini baba ganoush with mint and raspberries, to simply grilled fish and meats, to signature fire-roasted dishes like seafood rice, and carrots with yogurt sauce, cilantro seed pesto, citrus and pistachios.
When the original Ceia opened nearly five years ago, it was ahead of its time. Now, after a break of a few years, the concept is back at the long table at the Santa Clara 1728 hotel, with a new chef. Diogo Caetano passed through the kitchens of some of Spain’s and Portugal’s top chefs, then made a name for himself in Estonia—perhaps that’s why a Nordic accent sometimes shows up his cooking. While Ceia means “supper” in Portuguese, the experience here is more like an international dinner party, with 14 guests around a single table, and a menu that aims to take them on a culinary journey through all of Portugal, from the sea to the mountains.
Lisbon is getting better for vegetarians by the day, but it still made a statement when one of Portugal’s best and most famous chefs went all-in on a plant-based restaurant. In the intimate, well-lit dining room (the former home of Belcanto, Avillez’s two Michelin star restaurant), servers bring out a well-paced tasting menu with 12 “moments” based on legumes, leaves, seeds, algae, mushrooms, flowers, fruit, eggs and cheeses that change (of course) with the seasons. The opening menu featured dishes that are colorful, textured and sometimes rich, either visually, as in the gold and hummus egg, or flavorfully, as in confit egg yolk with Jerusalem artichoke, bean broth and truffle.
Breakfast at Go A Lisboa
Dynamic chef Inga Martin reinvented the rooftop at Casa da Goa (Lisbon’s Goan cultural center), a space that never quite lived up to its potential. She’s devised an all-day menu that ranges from eggs Benedict in the morning to octopus with harissa and beetroot hummus in the evening. (She loves pink.) She consulted with Goan chefs to develop that part of the menu, including vegetarian samosas and shrimp curry with coconut and spices. But the place is not only about the food. There are yoga classes some mornings, and a welcoming design that encourages lounging (couches and hammock-y areas), plus a creative cocktail menu and itinerate DJs. The indoor restaurant is set to open this autumn.
Tiago Penão and his team at Kappo
A little more than a year in, chef Tiago Penão’s first restaurant in the Lisbon suburb of Cascais is nailing the Japanese counter-dining experience. Kappo offers a sort of an kaiseki menu, with sublimely simple presentations of sushi and other Japanese classics, but they’re served in a relaxed way that encourages interaction and reflect his time in the kitchens of classical French chefs and the mad world of Albert Adrià in Spain. There’s an à la carte menu, but the better experience is the tasting menu, with its eight small plates that are designed around nature and seasonality. Word has it that Izakaya, Penão’s new Japanese street food speakeasy down the street, is a must-try.
The staff uniform at this “unconventional Italian” restaurant is a T-shirt that shows an upraised hand holding an artichoke as if it were some sort of revolutionary banner. The first thing you see upon entering the space is an upside-down wheat field suspended from the ceiling. That should tell you that they’re serious about not taking themselves too seriously. Except where it matters: Italian chef Silvio Armanni, who spent eight years cooking and earned a Michelin star in Asia, hand-makes the fresh pasta for dishes like cavatelli ai fruitti di mare (seafood pasta) and imports only-in-Italy products like Modena DOP balsamic vinegar. And if the test of an Italian restaurant is its spaghetti pomodoro, this one definitely passes.
Confronto do Mar ao Jardim at O Jardim—Sr. Lisboa
Although his new venture is not a vegetarian restaurant, chef Pedro de Sousa says he’s celebrating “the more sexy side of vegetables,” giving them a starring role even in many dishes that also include meat. A standout is the dish called Confronto do Mar ao Mar (“confrontation from the sea to the garden”—every dish gets a playful name), kombu flatbread, semi-dried ox heart tomatoes, flowers from the restaurant’s own garden and mussels. That garden is an especially lovely place to dine, as is the indoor space, with its exuberantly painted walls and plants hanging from the ceiling.
Lisbon’s first proper omakase (chef’s choice sushi) restaurant, Omakase Ri opened this summer with a seven-seat dining counter. Brazilian-born and -trained chef Will Vargas gets most of his fish from Lisbon’s best seafood market, imports a few specialties like scallops from Hokkaido, ages some of it (making it surprisingly melt-in-your-mouth delicious), and uses only noble Koshihikari rice from the Toyama prefecture of Japan. Also notable are the unusual, ever-changing selection of sakes, which can also be enjoyed in a food pairing.
Palácio do Grilo
Unlike any restaurant I’ve been to in Lisbon, or anywhere in the world, Palácio do Grilo serves surrealism as the main course. A project of Parisian theater director Julien Labrousse, the restaurant occupies an 18th-century palace in one of Lisbon’s trendiest derelict neighborhoods. The food is fine. You eat it; it tastes good; you go home satisfied. But if you’re focused on the burrata, you’re missing the point. A rotating cast of performance artists wander through the space, maybe dancing inside a shroud, typing on a vintage typewriter with plastic arms, or enacting some sort of shell game (but with wine!) while wearing Victorian dress. In lesser hands, or in a less gorgeous space, it could have fallen into kitsch, but here it works.
Chef Vitor Adão made his name in Lisbon with Plano, his fire-cooking restaurant that shows off his technique with inventive tasting menus. Across town, the new spin-off, Planto, is less elaborate, the kind of place you can just pop into for a snack. Or breakfast or a cocktail, as it’s open from early until late. There’s the typical brunch fare, like pancakes and avocado toast, but also more unusual—but not complicated—dishes like amberjack ceviche with leche de tigre, sweet potato, avocado and peanuts, and chickpeas with tahini, burrata, two types of pumpkin, coconut, honey and olive oil. Barman Hutnyk Kostiantyn won several bartending competitions in Ukraine, and his cocktails here are outstanding, including the best Bloody Mary I’ve had in Lisbon.
Honest cooking is what’s on the menu at this deceptively simple spot from prolific chef Luís Gaspar. But simple is not easy, and the kitchen team pull it off with tip-top-quality ingredients, accomplished technique and a wish to pay homage to their grandmothers. There are no reinventions, deconstructions or reinterpretations here, Instead, there are petiscos like octopus salad and cockles with garlic and cilantro and main dishes like bacalhau à bras (salted cod with eggs and potatoes) and roasted octopus. The 12€ dish of the day is one of the best weekday lunch deals in town.
Soão has been one of Lisbon’s top Asian restaurants since it opened four years ago, but it got a fresh infusion of energy once chef João Francisco Duarte settled into the top job. Duarte, who worked at the wildly influential Bica do Sapato, beside Pedro Almeida (the pioneer of Lisbon sushi) at Midori and at Sushi Samba in London, kept a number of the classics on the menu, such as the curried goat samosas and the lobster and shrimp dumplings, but put his own stamp on things. A standout among the new dishes is hot pot of cockles steamed in sake and paired with a very Portuguese escabeche of red onion and cilantro. There’s also a great selection of classic and innovative sushi and sashimi, including an offering of braised red mullet seasons with a mayonnaise made of that same fish’s liver, and another of grilled razor clam with bulhão pato (garlic and cilantro) sauce.
Simple, honest and fun might as well be the motto of this small restaurant on one of Lisbon’s most happening streets. Brazilian chef Pedro Monteiro is part of the influential collective New Kids on the Block, and here he’s out to present typical Portuguese tasca (tavern, sort of) fare with top-quality ingredients and technique, and a Brazilian accent. Along with chefs Octavio Delmonte and Bruno Gama, Monteiro, he presents an ever-changing, menu with dishes like beef tartare with anchovies, mayonnaise, and mustard; crispy-skin piglet with pickled fennel and orange; and tongue escabeche. Local press has called it the little brother of the phenomenally (and deservedly) popular O Velho Eurico down the street, but it’s more than that.
Natural wines and organic, seasonal, local food are everywhere in Lisbon (and much of the world) at the moment, but Tricky’s sets itself apart with its selection of unusual, mostly non-Portuguese bottles—partner Jenifer Duke owns the wine shop Rebel Rebel—also its rejection of those simplistic labels. (Or so they told Time Out Lisboa, which certainly makes my job harder.) Chef João Magalhães Correia (ex-Água pela Barba) and his kitchen team turn out a playful, creative cuisine (that belies serious technique) that includes plates like amberjack with a kombucha of wheat milk, strawberries and mint, all prepared in an open kitchen in the center of the room that makes them the stars of the show. There are about ten plates on the menu at any time, all designed to be shared, and dancing is encouraged after dinner.
It’s not really a restaurant—you have to pay an annual membership fee to dine here. But for people who’re in Lisbon longer-term, Ninho is the city’s first clubhouse for creatives and entrepreneurs. It combines the best of a member’s club with the ease of a cowork space and the playfulness of a swimming pool and garden oasis. Chef Hugo Dias de Castro is responsible for the all-day menu of yummy, won’t-weigh-you-down food at the poolside bar, and will oversee the restaurant when the full space opens later this year. The friendly staff memorize your preferences after your first visit.
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O Jardim—Sr. Lisboa