What’s the perfect breakfast in Lisboa ? A hearty sandwich made at a local, streetside cafe / restaurant. The sandwiches are just perfect to get you going if you’re looking towards a day of heavy sightseeing. Especially the pork variant has a powerful and salty taste, quiet unusual to anything I’d tasted before. The coarse bread gives it a hearty crunch and it plays beautiful off the harsh meaty taste of the pork. The same breakfast stand was also offering an omelette and a Chorizo combination. I was unable to figure out what these things are called, but together with a couple of espressos it’s a perfect hangover killer. The spicy chorizo and the mild omelette is like eating a complete breakfast which you can hold in one hand.
With a larger group of gentlemen the Espal Habrasas was chosen as the place to eat dinner. Located on the Docas it’s just a convenient 60 minute walk from Rossio, taxis seem to be the preferential choice. The appetizer were some octopi with garlic and oil. In terms of texture it was rubber and mush together, the taste just what you get when you cook garlic too long. The restaurant prides itself on meat and are offering beef cooked tableside on a hot stone. Since you choose the size of your cut, this seems like a good idea. The french fries served with the meat are bland, the sauces from a 20 litre convenience food container and the meat is soso. Unfortunatley the hot stone just wasn’t hot enough and it was not possible to grill all the meat perfectly. Prices are okay (compared to CH), expensive for Lisboa and too high for the quality of the food:
As a food critic, choosing the next restaurant is an elaborate process. Poring over other publications, the personal notes and a map of the city, careful delibration is put into making the selection for the night. The reason Drei Stuben was selected was a bit different. Volker Eckel, the gentleman who lured the Grasshopers (GC) into believing he was going to invest 300 Mio CHF into the club, was credited by my favourite quality newspaper with living in a room above the Drei Stuben restaurant. A guy who lured Erich Vogel into beliving the 300 Mio CHF story, must know something about fine dining and so Drei Stuben it was. The impression of the restaurant is deceiving. You might be tricked into believing this is an upscale Schnitzel place, but after you open the menu you clearly see that someone is into fine cuisine. The appetizer was a seasonal asparagus salad. Lovely, perfectly cooked asparagus with some pine nuts. Simple, delicious and absolute perfect execution. I was deeply impressed, and didn’t know that it was going to get better. Milk lamb from Poschivao, with chorizo potatoes, morels and scallions. The lamb was tender and succelent, perfectly cooked, a true reverence towards woollen animals. Not quiet sure about the scallions, they were nice but not really needed. The morels (expertly prepared) and chorizo potatoes needed no other company. I also liked the vibe of the place. A strange woman in her early thirties and a man in his late fourties entered. They looked a bit like deers staring into a headlight. The woman timidly asked if they could eat something small, since she was a bit surprised as the place is a lot more low-key at lunch. Instead of wishing them goodbye they served them a soup and half portion of ravioli. They were really squirming in their seats and I felt sorry for them. Still the place has a nice vibe, swiss, classy but not over the top powerhouse type of place. Still if someone lives here and offers you 300 Mio CHF, think twice before paying for his lunch.
The food is excellent, prices mirror that:
After all the weird stuff in Japan, I decided to treat myself to some italian food and headed to Da Angela. The restaurant is an institution and has underwent an owner change two years ago. This seemed like a decent choice for me. The place was full, it was noisy, the crowd a mix of affluents and families. I started off with some white asparagus with parmigiano. Hmmmmmmm, not really a winner. While the asparagus were cooked on the verge of perfection, putting parmigiano on top of it wasn’t the most sensible choice. The cheese totally killed the dish and stole the elegance of the asparagus by overpowering it. Next dish was the famous Cappelletti Angela, the pasta was exquisite and elegant, and clearly a highly skilled craftsman made these. But, the filling was lacking flavour and the sauce was just too dull and too greasy (plain butter). I felt it was strange that such a delicate hand made pasta would be ruined by grease and a boring stuffing. Main course was a europen seabass (Wolfsbarsch, branzino) with spinach and risotto. The side dishes were oversalted (spinach) and on the verge of overcooked (risotto). The fish was juice, nice flavour and was well cooked. The waiter, must have watched “The Return of the Chainsaw Massacre”, since he completly butchered the fish while dissecting it. It I looked like a can of tuna was dropped on my plate. All in all, the place is living off it’s reputation and totally not worth the money. It sort of fits the crowd, mostly older and reluctant to try something new. The 200 CHF just for the food (2 persons) wasn’t worth it:
Yes – even therealpickygourmet.com is subject to errors. In a discussion with one of the enterpreneurs of the Restaurant Helvetia I was politely told that I’ve made some errors. While I agree that I wasn’t quiet sure what a Szeginer Gulash was, it’s made with sauerkraut not with onions, I still think it was a high acid dish. I’m not completely agreeing with the second criticism. Yes it says “Ochsenschwanzsuppe mit Mark” and nothing else on the menu, which doesn’t imply that it there is a bone surrounding the marrow, my personal expectation includes a bone. Why not make it clearer on the menu ? Even though not mentioned explicitlythe Pizzokel and the soup itself clearly showed a crafty and skilled cooked used to work with high quality ingredients.
I was looking forward to visiting the refurnished Restaurant and Bar Helvetia at the Stauffacher. Francoise Wicki, the chef has been cooking in Guide Michelin and Gault Millau decorated kitchens for some time (she even holds courses). The restaurant has an interesting vibe, a mix between cosmopolitan powerhouse and comfy oldtime bar. Be sure that you choose your seating wisely. Even though the booths look nice and cozy, everybody is walking past this spot and you are much too exhibited. We settled for a table by the window. The menu definitely has a major swissness to it. I started off with a oxtail soup with marrow. It certainly was a proper soup, but why was the marrow in there without any bones ? The tasty and fun bit about marrow is always the bone. My main dish was an Szedginer Gulash with Pizokel. A nice serving of onions, tasty pizokel but the acidity of the gulash was over the top and ruined the dish. If you’re looking for gourmet food, Helvetia is not the place. As a gourmet swiss crossover place, Hof Weissbad is the better choice. If you’re looking for decent swiss food it’s okay, especially the prices are fair:
What were they thinking ? On the flight to Japan I got Soba and thought highly of JAL. Coming back I get a weird attempt at Western cuisine. Some of these things I didn’t even understand what they were supposed to be. The mistery pastry was probably used as a cushion by a passenger on the earlier flight. Main course was a weird dish with meat, vegetables and rice. This forced passenger on 39C to drink his way through the whole sake selection. There are three types yellow, green and blue in nifty bottle where the cup is integrated as part of the cap. The best one was the green one, kudos to JAL for at least delivering on the drinks. In terms of food – screw the western stuff and stick to the japanese dishes.
I’ll spare you the suspense, the last meal in Japan was great. Stumbling past On Yasai we descended the stairs and decided to eat there. We were shown to a booth (western style seating) on the side of the room, while larger groups were sitting Japanese crosslegged style on the floor. Picking each a spicy and a clear broth from the selection of four, these are brought to your table and filled into a type of hotpot. This is similar to Shabu Shabu, but the selection of items is more eclectic and and there is more than one broth in the divided dish on the table. The quality of the vegetable, fish and meat was very high. This meal was a great showcase to experience the difference between Japanese and Western meat. The Japanese beef especially is always marbled much stronger and has less bite to it than the Western counterpart. It is also less heartier and subtler in taste. Since the meat is then dunked in variants of soy sauce, garlic, sesame, radish and other condiments to suit your taste it becomes a rather complex bite and balances the flavours well. The more you wait and as the soup reduces and picks up flavors of the stuff you’ve braised in it, the better it gets. This is certainly a meal which anyone having doubts about Japanes cuisine can try and like without any weirdness attached to it. The only weird, yet funny thing was the group of business people dining on the floor next to us, one elder lady was so drunk she almost fell on our table, when she tried to walk out.