Peixe em Lisboa 2013 - Part two

Chef Hugo Nascimento, of Tasca da Esquina, walked up to me and shook my hand, promptly asking where he could set up his dishes and food. I don't know about you, but I don't get table-side service very often, and when I get it from a well known chef and I have my camera, I get a little photo happy.

Chef Hugo Nacimento - Lascas, pimentos assados, azeitona e coentros - Prep Lascas, pimentos assados, azeitona e coentros Lascas, pimentos assados, azeitona e coentros

Lascas, pimentos assados, azeitona e coentros – Cod fish salad with roasted sweet red peppers, baby onions, olives, cilantro and olive oil. If I could make one dish at home from the event, this would be it. Maybe the chef will give me the recipe...

Especiarias, Ervilhas e Farofa - Prep
Especiarias, Ervilhas e Farofa - Prep Especiarias, Ervilhas e Farofa - Prep
Especiarias, Ervilhas e Farofa - Prep

Especiarias, Ervilhas e Farofa – Dogfish in a spiced pea purée with crushed nuts and chives. A perfect blend of spices that didn't overpower the sweet pea flavor. The fish was firm, fleshy and went well with the purée. The chef listed off the ingredients for the purée, but I can't remember them all for the life of me except ginger. Probably a good thing, because I think I'd spend all my time trying to make it at home, it was that good.

Lombos confitados, amêndoas e espuma de batata- Prep
Tasca de Esquina - Lombos confitados, amêndoas e espuma de batata - Prep Tasca de Esquina - Lombos confitados, amêndoas e espuma de batata- Prep
Tasca de Esquina - Lombos confitados, amêndoas e espuma de batata - Prep

Lombos confitados, amêndoas e espuma de batata – Cod confit with almonds, olive oil and potato foam. Cod is a staple in Portuguese cuisine, and so are potatoes and olive oil. This was a more sophisticated approach to a basic Portuguese dish. I particularly enjoyed the crunchy almonds.

Tasca da Esquina - As farófias da Tasca

As Farófias da Tasca – A fluffy sweet egg white dessert with cinnamon. A traditional Portuguese dessert. I've only had it one other time, but this version was done very well.

Jose Avillez - Ananás assado com sorvete de limão e manjericão

Last year I got the chance to meet Chef José Avillez, but only saw him at a glance this year. He provided us with a dessert, Ananás assado com sorvete de limão e manjericão, grilled pineapple with lemon basil sorbet. I enjoyed the light refreshing flavors of the sorbet, but could have lived with out the grilled pineapple, but that's my own little quirk (I don't believe pineapple should be cooked).

A Travessa - Crème Brûlée

I didn't get to come earlier in the event to visit some of the other chefs and restaurants like Andrea and Mary did. A Travessa was one of those restaurants, but they were kind enough to provide us with a dessert (which I didn't even see on the menu) of Crème Brûlée. It was the best I've ever had and it inspired me to make it at home.

Disclosure: The chefs and wine makers at each of these places (including the ones featured in Peixe em Lisboa 2013 - Part One) were kind enough to provide each tasting free of charge for review. All opinions are my own.

The Not so Good but not really “Ugly”


I don't do reviews, not normally anyway. It's just not my thing. I especially don't like to do bad reviews, but I feel if I'm going to report on the good, the bad needs a little constructive criticism.

First would be that the one restaurant I wanted to go to on last years' event was Umai. I love Asian cuisine and I had come this year with the decision to try a couple dishes no matter the cost.

Disclosure: Umai was the only restaurant that didn't provide each dish free of cost that I tried. They only provided the Miso Brownie dessert free of cost. All opinions are my own.

Umai - pad thai Umai- House Maki
Umai - pad thai Umai - House maki - rolo especial com cobertura de salmão

I didn't go to the counter to get the dishes from Umai. I was informed that the question of “What would you recommend?” was asked, but the people behind the counter weren't sure what was best. This alone would be a red flag to most. But we wound up with the the dishes I had planned on getting to try, Pad Thai and the House Maki roll. And wound up disappointed.

They both looked good. The Pad Thai had that orange-ish yellow color that means plenty of curry and the maki roll was vibrant (to say the least) with its salmon, seaweed, shredded radish and green onion on top.

Looks unfortunately can be deceiving. It's one thing to do a mild curry, but this was insipid. The sushi was also bland. I don't know how you can make bland sushi, but somehow Umai managed it.

Now, I have to admit that there could be a couple of reasons why this happened:
  • I was at Peixe em Lisboa on the day before the last day. I'm sure that the people behind the counter were tired and ready to be done. This is almost excusable for the disappointing dishes.
  • The other is that if things were prepared at the beginning of the event and the food was on the old side (I'm not sure if this is true. It just seemed likely with the lack of flavor). This would not be excusable. There is no excuse.
Umai - Miso Brownie

The one redeeming dish I tried from Umai was their dessert, the Miso Brownie. It was good. Not outstanding or anything innovative (at least not from an American's perspective), but it was good with its chocolate "brownie", strawberries and whipped cream. But with a flavor combo like that, it's hard to mess it up!

That being said, I have a few suggestions for next years event:

When asked “What would you recommend?” by a customer, it's a good idea to have an answer. It tells the customer that the people who work there enjoy what they cook and like to taste it. It also tells them that they would probably choose to eat at that restaurant even if they didn't work there, if possible.

I'm sure that people were tired towards the end of the event. Their best work wasn't put on the plate and that's a shame. Change people out if that's the case, have them refreshed and excited to work.

I wanted to like their restaurant. I wanted to give it a great recommendation. But with what I had, I can't. I will go back next year, to see if things have improved.

The Crowd

Peixe em Lisboa

I like Peixe em Lisboa. It's a great place for Portuguese products to get noticed by the chefs in this country and the visitors that come here. It's a good place for journalists, food and wine writers, photographers and entrepreneurs in the industry to see what Portugal has to offer and then in turn show it to people outside Portugal.

My number one recommendation for next year is:
Advertise early in the year, not two months before the event. Advertise outside of Lisbon. Advertise outside Portugal and advertise outside Europe.

I can't speak for Europeans in general, but I can speak a little about Canadians and even more about the US when I say people abroad don't realize the gem that is Portugal and what it has to offer. They need to know this is a country to visit. They need to know that this country has more to offer than cork, sandy beaches and Port.

My number one rant is:
Use a bit of your budget to get a good translator or proofreader for your website. It irks me when I see that money was spent to have a guy change light bulbs from one type to another based on the time of day at each table, but wasn't spent to have someone accurately translate Portuguese to English. If you need some recommendations, I have a short list of people who would do the job for a decent price and would also enjoy knowing that they will be contributing to Portugal getting noticed.

All in all I'd go to Peixe em Lisboa even if it's just to find inspiration. It gives me a place to find out about new Portuguese food and wine producers and I can happily recommend them to my family, friends and people who ask me about it around here at Acquired Life. Hopefully, I've also inspired someone to try one of these restaurants or taste a new wine too!


Still not satisfied? Then be sure to check out Part one of Peixe em Lisboa, which features more fantastic Portuguese chefs, food, winemakers and wine. Mmm Portuguese wine!

If you're looking for even more, please check out Mary's post on her blog, Your Lisbon Guide: Octopus Eating Chefs at the "Fish" and Andrea's post at Catavino: Peixe em Lisboa: Exploring Restaurant SeaMe in Lisbon.


Andrea Smith said...

Great constructive criticism Rochelle, though not sure I would have been as forgiving about Umai, I was totally hyped to try them but them when they gave us this tired, almost arrogant attitude for lackluster dishes in the end it was a complete letdown and inexcusable. I had two other Portuguese friends tell me later on that they went to their restaurant and had a poor experience as well so it unfortunately doesn't seem to be a fluke. But overall I still enjoyed the event and just hope they continue to bring good chefs and winemakers that impress, because we know there's plenty of them in Portugal :)

Rochelle Ramos said...

I wasn't sure if it was a fluke, and I like to give a second chance if I can. I'm just hoping they'll read this and take the advice so that they can make next year better for not just them, but for the customers that want some yummy food!