Worth eating in (and around) Lisbon

Down the street, Lisbon. #portugal Portuguese food is relatively little known, and the reputation it does have tends to involve words like "stodgy" or "meat and potatoes". But after two visits to the country, I've found that eating in Portugal is a lot like eating in Thailand: unpretentious, garlicky, messy, cheap, boozy, full flavoured and fun. True, meat and potatoes pop up a lot, and the cuisine isn't as varied or spicy as that of Thailand -- or as diverse or sophisticated as that of Spain, to which it's often compared -- but Portuguese food is just plain good; not a surprise given that the ingredients the Portuguese do have to work with are pretty impressive. Amazing seafood, surprisingly good bread, a pastry and coffee culture to rival just about any country in the world, and good olive oil that flows like water are just some of the standouts, not to mention the alcohol, which is invariably cheap and tasty. Yet going light years beyond Thailand are the people involved with food -- at least the ones we were lucky enough to encounter -- who often tended to display an intimate knowledge about that which they made, served or sold.

So here are some of my best hits from my most recent trip to Lisbon, a city I wouldn't hesitate to call one of my favourite eating destinations anywhere. I didn't bring a proper camera on the trip, so the below are all taken with my iPhone 4 and edited courtesy of Instagram.

Cervejaria Ramiro

Said crab, Cervejaria Ramiro. The fat is combined with butter and served in the shell in a something of an intensely rich crab curry. #portugal

Easily one of the most enjoyable and pleasurable meals I had in Lisbon, if not of all time, was at this longstanding seafood den. In many ways, Ramiro is not unlike Chinese-style seafood halls in Bangkok -- both feature tanks of live seafood, flat-screen TVs and a loud and hectic atmosphere -- but the emphasis here is on seafood rather than seasonings. If you're coming from Southeast Asia, this may be the first time you've really, truly tasted seafood, which here takes forms such as shrimp in garlicky olive oil; cold spider crab with its fat made into a buttery dip (shown above); cold, briny gooseneck barnacles:

Gooseneck barnacles, Cervejaria Ramiro, Lisbon. Just one of several dishes of an amazing meal that also included clams in broth, a giant steamed crab, tiny prawns in olive oil and garlic, grilled buttery bread, and rather incongruently, a garlicky steak s

my first time trying this unusual specialty; the famous amêijoas à bulhão pato, clams in olive oil, garlic and parsley; and perhaps most incongruously (and memorably), prego, garlicky steak sandwiches, which one smothers in yellow mustard. All of this was coupled with buttery toasted bread and a slightly fizzy red vinho verde.

Cervejaria Ramiro Avenida Almirante Reis 1, Lisbon noon-1am Tues-Sat

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Páteo Do Petisco


Near the seaside destination of Cascais, this place does petiscos, the Portuguese equivalent of tapas. Heartier and less sophisticated than their Spanish cousins, but if you ask me, more satisfying, the petiscos we had on our two visits to the restaurant included crispy deep-fried potato skins; a soup of rice and octopus; grilled, rice-stuffed blood sausage; tiny snails:

Caracóis, Portuguese snails: tiny, salty, garlicky and possibly thymey. A drinking snack available all over Lisbon. #portugal

pipis, chicken giblets in a paprika-heavy sauce; a surprisingly tender and meaty steak; clams; and a shocking number of bottles of vinho verde.

Páteo Do Petisco Travessa das Amoreiras 5, Cascais Torre noon-2am Tues-Sun

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Pastelaria Aloma

The pasteis de nata at Pastelaria Aloma, winner of the best egg tarts in Lisbon two years running. Amazingly flaky and crispy, with a taste somewhere right between sweet and rich. #portugal

Although it dates back to 1943, Aloma has aged well, in 2012 and 2013 was deemed to serve Lisbon's best pastéis de nata (egg tarts). And justifiably so; although the standard in Lisbon is pretty high, the tarts served here were exceptionally light and flaky, and held a likewise rich filling.

Pastelaria Aloma Rua Francisco Metrass 67, Lisbon 8am-7pm

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Sol e Pesca

Sol E Pesca, Lisbon: barely a restaurant, but easily one of the most charming and delicious places I've ever eaten at. Choose a tinned fish or shellfish -- sardines, tuna, mackerel, mussels, octopus -- from the huge menu and they'll grab it from a shelf,

Sol e Pesca is a converted fishing tackle shop that also happens to sell tinned seafood. There's a vast menu of the stuff, ranging from tuna paste to octopus in spicy olive oil, which to order are grabbed from a shelf, dumped on a plate and served with a sprinkle of parsley and a wedge of lemon:

Fat sardines in spicy olive oil w pickles; Sol E Pesca, Lisbon, #portugal

Barley a restaurant, admittedly, but nonetheless one of my most memorable and satisfying meals in Lisbon.

Sol e Pesca Rua Nova do Carvalho 44 noon-4am

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Solar dos Presuntos

Solar Dos Presuntos: buzzy, boozy, bustling, big screen TV -- pretty much the epitome of the Portuguese restaurant.

This three-storey restaurant is epitome of the Portuguese institution: busy, buzzy, decked with celebrity portraits and big-screen TVs, and served by gruffily amicable male staff. And best of all the food delivers; highlights were the tender roasted kid goat, a soup of rice and prawns, and slices of tender Portuguese pork fried in lard.

Solar dos Presuntos Rua Portas de Santo Antão 150, Lisbon noon-3.30pm & 7-11pm

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Cervejaria Trindade

Expensive by Lisbon standards, and perhaps a bit touristy, Trindad -- located inside a former convent -- makes up for these with an immaculately beautiful tile-lined interior, a relatively brief menu that serves as a great introduction to Portuguese standards, and friendly staff.

Cervejaria Trindade Rua Nova da Trindade 20C, Lisbon noon-midnight

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Confeitaria Nacional

An amazingly crispy and light almond paste tart, and yet another galão, Confeitaria Nacional, Lisbon, #portugal.

Dating back to 1829, this is allegedly Lisbon's oldest pastry shop. Located in the centre of town, it's almost one of the most popular, and after approximately 10 visits, among the best I came across. Expect a huge selection of Portuguese pastries and cakes here, including a particularly memorable pastel de feijão (pictured above), an impossibly light and crispy pastry shell filled with bean paste that was almost as light and airy as whipped cream.

Confeitaria Nacional Praça da Figueira 18B 8am-10pm Mon-Sat, 9am-10am Sun

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BA Wine Bar

This place is admittedly tiny and relatively expensive, popular among foreign tourists (reservations are a must) and lacks the charmingly old-school atmosphere of other places in Lisbon, but for non Portuguese speakers interested in testing the waters of Portuguese wine, I can't imagine a better starting point. The selection of wines by the glass is immense, but the real highlight here is the customer service, with the people running the place being both exceptionally welcoming and extremely knowledgeable about their food (limited to canned seafood, as well as meats and cheeses) and of course, their wine.

BA Wine Bar Bar Rua da Rosa 107 6-11pm

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A Taberna da Rua das Flores

Bacalhau com grão de bico, salt cod and chickpeas dressed in vinaigrette at the charming Taberna da Rua das Flores, Lisbon.  #portugal #latergram

A closet-sized tavern that has a short, daily menu of dishes, some traditional, such as meia desfeita (shown above), chickpeas and codfish in vinaigrette, or iscas:

Also enjoyed at Taberna da Rua Das Flores was iscas à portuguesa, pork liver fried w air-dried ham in a garlicky, bay-leafy white wine reduction. Not usually a liver fan but really enjoyed this. #portugal #latergram

pork liver marinated in wine and sauteed with dried ham, as well as a couple more modern options. Equal parts charming and tasty.

A Taberna da Rua das Flores Rua das Flores 103 noon-midnight Mon-Fri & 6pm-midnight Sat

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Mercado da Ribeira (Mercado 24 de Julho)

#portugal haul. Think I'll go w some smoked mackerel tonight. #wishidboughtmore

The original section of this market, Lisbon's largest, is pretty unexceptional, and feels rather empty. The main reason to go is the new Time Out-branded food hall, which unites several famous restaurants and vendors (a couple of which are mentioned here), and shops, including one selling tinned seafood (pictured above) and branch of the well-stocked and knowledgeably-staffed Garrafeira Nacional, a wine store:

I did get to taste this: grapes picked in 1944 and held in wood for the next 40 years. Light, aromatic, almost no taste of alcohol and a bunch of other things I don't have the vocabulary to describe. #portugal

which had some interesting and ancient stuff for sale by the glass.

Time Out Food Hall Mercado da Ribeira (Mercado 24 de Julho) Avenida 24 de Julho 10-midnight Mon-Wed, 10am-2am Thurs-Sat, 10am-midnight Sun

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A Tasca do Chico

Daytime veterinarian/nighttime amateur fado singer Carlos Rodrigues in action at A Tasca do Chico, Lisbon, #portugal

Food is available here, but the emphasis is on fado, a type of Portuguese music with roots in Lisbon. On Monday and Wednesday nights, the Bairro Alto branch holds sessions of fado vadio, a sort of open mic session, where anybody who wants to can come up and sing a few songs. We were never out of here earlier than 2am on both our visits, made new friends (hi Carlos!) and found it a warm, inviting place.

A Tasca do Chico Rua do Diário de Notícias 39 7pm-3am

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