Visit Lisbon for its steep, labyrinthine streets, clacking yellow trams, and impressive Old World charm. And don't forget the Portuguese capital's bohemian bars and lively international nightclubs. Yet visitors to this charming port city may want to explore one more important attraction: the inventive, forward-looking food scene.
From the traditional to the slightly avant-garde the culinary landscape in Europe's westernmost capitol is evolving into a culinary joy for tourists and locals alike. New restaurants have popped up in all corners of the capital, serving some of the most inventive dishes in Europe.
"What is especially alluring is the focus on traditional Portuguese dishes and wines," says Sofia Nobre, a Lisbon native and marketing manager for the Altis Hotel group in Lisbon. "Chefs have used the city as a kind of blank canvas from which to explore surprisingly tasteful home-grown dishes."
While smaller, ethnic restaurants serving traditional Portuguese fare still rule the day in most areas of the city, a few Michelin-star chefs are commanding lots of attention.
At Feitoria, a sophisticated and comfortable eatery inside the Altis Hotel Belem Hotel & Spa, chef Jose Cordeiro relies on traditional flavors and mostly national foods to elevate Portuguese gastronomy. The restaurant, which earned a Michelin star, also employs a varied selection of fine wines, including hundreds of national and international vintages.
Tasty dishes at Feitoria include lobster with white and green asparagus, and small piglet, crackling or sautéed scallop with cauliflower puree, veal juices and caviar ossetra. Meat dishes include duck breast with black salsify glace and mushroom spheres, foie gras and egg pearls.
"My roots and traditions are always present in all the dishes that I create," Cordeiro says . "I am a big advocate of Portuguese product, so in my kitchen the most important ingredient is the quality of the product."
For design buffs, Feitoria also offers up a tastefully decorated interior. The bright and sophisticated décor is dominated by white, black and gold, including metal cubes suspended from the ceiling. The tables are decorated with Portuguese linens with white porcelain tableware and glasses of various colors. A large Namban art mural greets diners at the entrance of the restaurant.
Another innovative chef with a Michelin star to his credit is Jose Avillez, who spent time in the kitchens of Alain Ducasse. He now runs Cantinho do Avillez, a bustling eatery in the hip Chiado district. (Avillez also owns nearby restaurant Belcanto.) The dishes at Cantinho do Avillez are eclectic and include Barrosa cattle with foie gras and tempura-style green beans with lemon salt and tartare sauce. A plate of veal trotters with cumin and lemon can also be had.
Another noted stop on Lisbon's cuisine trail is Tasca da Esquina. The menu includes squid and mushroom tapas, white fish with coriander risotto and sheep's-curd cheese with pumpkin jam, among other highlights.
Adding to Lisbon's appeal as the next foodie capital of Europe is its compact urban landscape. Built on seven hills, the proximity to some of the best new eateries is too close to taxi, but just far enough for a brisk walk. This adds one more important aspect to the city's culinary appeal: exercise.
Feitoria at the Altis Belem Hotel and Spa (351-21) 040 0200
Cantinho do Avillez , RuaDuques de Braganca, 7; (351-21) 199-2369
Belcanto (351-21) 342 0607
Tasca da Esquina (351-21) 099 3939