Food Recommendations for Lisbon Fall 2018:
I recently returned from my annual two-month summer stint in Portugal and I'm happy to confirm that the food and wine scene is hotter than ever! I've been visiting restaurants, wine bars, and wineries around the country for a few years now and this is the first time I've seen such a sophisticated gastronomic explosion taking over the city. Locals and visitors alike are demanding creativity, quality, and consistency and they are getting that and much more. If you've ever thought about going to Portugal, you need to go now! I've listed some of my favorite places in Lisbon below to get you started.
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JNcQUOI – French inspired, as implied by the name, JNcQUOI is set in a lovely old-world-meets-modern setting on the elegant Avenida da Libertade (the Champs-Élysées of Lisbon). Wealthy locals, international jet setters, and bon vivants come here to see and be seen. The food is consistent, well-presented, and priced to match the scene. The wine selection and somm are great. After lunch or dinner, make sure you save some time to stroll around the neighborhood. (Make reservation ASAP)
LOCO– is the culinary brainchild of Michelin-starred Chef Alexandre Silva, who combines his mastery of molecular gastronomy with influences from traditional Portuguese cuisine and beyond to defy the stuffy fine dining status quo. The loco experience is broken down into 14-18 adventourous “moments” (versus "dishes") that are set in a cozy 22-seat dining room that's probably best known for "the tree". And even though the setup will feel like many restaurants in this category, the experience will definitely not. For starters, you won't even know the menu ahead of time. And, if you're dining with others, you'll probably see diverse "moments" floating around your table throughout the evening. Overall, you'll be very happy that you came...and even happier if you end up with the right key! (You must make reservation ASAP)
BELCANTO – You cannot mention the food scene in Portugal without talking about José Avillez. Most international foodies will know this name before they ever set food in the country. The José Avillez Group has created a gastronomic empire and Belcanto (the only two Michelin-starred restaurant in Portugal to date) is their signature masterpiece. Think of what it would be like if refined molecular gastronomy meets performing arts and you get to be the protagonist. From the time you arrive at the small 28-seat space (with an interesting history itself) to the moment that you leave, you'll feel like the star of a show. The waitstaff will quickly learn your name, your nationality, which language to address you in, food allergies, wine preferences, and anything else that will enhance your dining experience. Everything here is consistently amazing. (Get your credit card ready and make a reservation NOW... and keep your fingers crossed that there's space. They are also open for lunch.) http://belcanto.pt/EN/
100MANEIRAS BISTRO- A “rising Michelin-starred" restaurant, by the eccentric Executive Chef Ljubomir Stanisic (originally from Yugoslavia) has become a local favorite on the fine dining scene. The dishes are creative, gorgeous, and perfectly paired with a great selection of unique and small production wines. The somm, Mico Drummond, is friendly, knowledgeable and really enjoys introducing clients to new experiences. (He’s actually one of my favorite somms in the city.) I usually recommend this place as a first choice on your second evening or an amazing "plan b" if something else falls through. (Make a reservation.)
FIDALGO - If you want an authentic old school Portuguese dining experience in the heart of Bairro Alto, you’ll absolutely love this place. The dishes are large enough for two and everything is fantastic. They have a well-curated wine list and the owner (a local legend) and his wife run the show…as they have for decades. A well-known Portuguese food journalist brought me here for the first time and it's become one of my favorites. It's so small and cozy you'll feel like you're in someone's home. (Make a reservation: +351.213.422.900)
CERVEJARIA RAMIRO- One of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite places in Lisbon. A traditional beer and seafood house that has become local institution (and a must-stop for all serious foodies). The menu is limited and everything is amazingly good and fresh. My favorite starters are the shrimp in garlic sauce and the clams. Make sure you save some bread to dip in the sauce. If you are adventurous and really want to taste the sea, try one of the most coveted seafood dishes in town: os percebes(barnacles). Ask the waiter to bring you "um prato muito pequeno de percebes para experimentar". While you wait, watch this Youtube clip to see how barnacles are harvested: https://youtu.be/GqoUU0gzrQ8 (It will make you feel better about the product and the price!) Ramiro is only open for dinner and you cannot make a reservation. On busy nights, it can take up to 60 minutes to get a table. After checking in with the host, go straight to the bar and get a bottle of wine (or beer) to ease your wait. Hang out on the terrace and people watch until your number is called. The place is extremely casual and the waiters are no-nonsense so don’t expect the fine dining fussiness here. I've introduced this place to American celebrities, diplomats, and friends and everyone loves it. You should watch Anthony Bourdain’s experience….listen out for his reference to the “booze mop”! Start the video at 1:58 https://vimeo.com/41694966
LISBOA SKY BAR – You’ll want to have a sunset cocktail here at least one evening during your stay. This is where the affluent locals go to see and be seen. The drinks are gorgeous and plentiful, the wine list is decent, and the music is festive. There are plenty of other rooftop bars in town, but this one by far has the most majestic view of the city. The Sky Bar is inside of the Tivoli Avenida de Libertade. Call ahead to reserve a table.
Stairwell Wine Bar & Creative Food - A new spot in the heart of Chiado/Bairro Alto area that just opened this summer. Stairwell is already top on my list because it's the closest thing to an actual "wine bar" that I've found in Lisbon so far (there's an actual bar where you can sit). The food is (as the title suggest) creative and unique and the service is totally on point. If you go and it's not crowded, consider yourself lucky because you'll get access to one of the most knowledgeable sommeliers (José Peixoto) in town. Ask him everything you've ever wanted to know about Portuguese wine and enjoy a glass for me! Open for both lunch and dinner.
ViniPortugal Wine Tasting Room - Many people (locals included) do not know about this hidden gem in downtown Lisbon. I stumbled upon it a few years ago when I started designing programs in Portugal. It's a modern wine tasting room with two dispensers (one for red and one for white) with about six different selections each. You purchase a rechargeable card from the attendants and you're free to explore. They have books (and a clean WC) in the next room over, just ask. If you do not want a private wine tasting with a local sommelier, this is the next best thing you can do to learn about Portugal's wine regions and varieties.
*Ginjinha – You’ll have to drink this local aperitif (and digestif) made from cherries. You can find it anywhere, but I highly recommend that you stop by the original A Ginjinha place: (Largo São Domingos 8, 1100-201 Lisboa, Portugal). Just look for the line outside with happy tourists holding little shot glasses. You'll feel like you've taken a step back in time. See Anthony Bourdain’s visit here: https://youtu.be/p3UEo5XKFt8
If you visit any of these places, please drop us a quick line to let us know how it went. We're constantly updating this list and your feedback is crucial. If you'd like a more personalized list of restaurant and winery recommendations in Portugal for your trip, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sheree M. Mitchell has traveled to 40 countries, lived on three continents and speaks English and Spanish (while currently working on Italian and Portuguese). In 2014, Sheree gave up a comfortable life and career in Miami to embark on an ambitious 14-month, five continent transformational solo sojourn around the world. Today she oversees Immersa Global and IG Scholar, two boutique firms that specialize in designing unique immersion experiences abroad for discerning travelers and students. Sheree regularly speaks at the New York Times Travel Show and serves as a tourism consultant for regional and national organizations. Connect with Sheree and Immersa Global on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @immersaglobal