Lisbon: a Foodie Heaven

For me, food is the main focus of every trip.  Last year’s sister reunion in Lisbon was no exception. Traveling with three sisters is tricky. Luckily, we all share a love of good food, thanks to our mom, who in our minds was one of the best cooks ever.  Here’s a roundup if you only have 3 days to experience Lisbon, I’ll share in another post some fun stuff to do! 

Time Out Mercado de Ribeira is a food hall that’s beyond anything you’ve ever been to! Top left: wow, a tasty piece of fish with just a drizzle of lemon; shrimp in a delicious soupy sauce; composed salad with fried egg and the BEST crispy pork skin EVER from a Tibetan chef at Leitao de Ribeira.

Time Out Mercado da Ribeira
Yes, a food court became one of the highlights of our trip. Every time I suggested trying a new restaurant, my sisters would pipe up, “let’s go back to da Ribeira!” 

Mercado da Ribeira was no ordinary food court;  it occupied a whole block in an exquisite historic building that had previously been a market.  It was within walking distance of our Airbnb in Principe Real.  Fresh produce, stunning and exotic flowers and meat booths surround the food court and included a cooking academy as well as booths promoting Portuguese products.  Be prepared to spend a couple of hours here.

Time Out, the magazine for where to eat, drink and do curated top Lisbon chefs to participate and they did not disappoint.  We experienced gourmet dishes at very affordable prices.  You can gauge the popularity of the chefs by the lines formed at their booths. Friday nights and weekends, the Ribeira is standing room only. There was so much to choose from, don’t miss these two standout pork dishes…

Chef Alexandre Silva’s Pork Belly on a bed of pea puree with caramelized Bok Choy and teriyaki sauce was exquisite. Each ingredient on the plate had their own distinctive flavors, yet together, they complemented each other perfectly.

Alexandra Silva
Chef Alexandre Silva was Portugal’s first Top Chef winner and no wonder, his Pork Belly was exquisite. He is famous for recreating well known dishes and putting his own personal spin on them. I try to get my cooking students to do same, let go of their fear and experiment. It was his pork belly that convinced my sisters we HAD to return for another round.  I found out later they returned again after I left, little piggies.  

Leitao’s crispy skin with the most tender pork is another MUST! How did a Tibetan chef end up in Lisbon?

Leitao de Ribeira
The Tibetan chef shared his secret for getting the skin crispy!  “Separate the skin from the flesh” he advised.  Well, it worked. We didn’t even care what the flesh was like under that crispy skin, we just wanted the skin. The flesh as it turned out was extremely tender, oozing with aromatic flavors with hints of orange, reminding us of luscious street food in Asia except 6 times better.  It was not a cheap dish and the chef could see we were drooling and cut us a deal, giving us a 4th portion, thank you chef.  

Portuguese almond cake was so similar to a Malaysian sugee cake my mom used to make! We loved the crunchy texture at the top with a mushy bottom.

A few other superb restaurants we tried…

Bairro de Avillez
What a superb gastronomic foodie heaven by talented Chef Jose Avillez, I can hardly believe this was a build out of a private home because it’s VAST!  Inside was a Mercearia, a gourmet store with every imaginable cheese and charcuterie, you can order to take home or eat there. It’s in the Chiado area, a shopper’s delight, again walking distance from our airbnb. Take a peek at the menu and start drooling.

Bairro de Avillez, brainchild of Jose Avillez has multiple spaces for you to enjoy his creations. This is the Pateo with vaulted ceilings and hanging plants. We didn’t even bother viewing their menu and prices but told it was difficult to score a table.

Bairro de Avillez Taberna is at the front and in my opinion, the most fun area to be! Left to right: Tuna steak with herb sauce and pine nuts with grilled Portuguese polenta; Octopus with garlic, kimchi sauce with sweet potato; Aged beef loin steak with smoked garlic cream and Taberna’s french fries, OMG!

Taberna at the front is the most fun!  You’re right in the thick of the action where you can watch chefs cook and prepare your dishes, the bartender shake up cocktails and view nonstop streams of foodies entering.  Go EARLY, otherwise a long wait and there are no reservations for Taberna.

Chocolate cake, similar to lava cake but 10 times better!

Taberna’s menu,  looks like we had these many dishes, wow!

Decadente restaurant, top clockwise: Sauteed prawns with homemade hot sauce and garlic; smoked salmon with figs and smoked bacalhau with arugula.

Inside The Independente Hostel downstairs, but it’s a very hip, cool space. Great place to stop for lunch after walking around this area.

Insolito Restaurant Bar & Grill
Housed upstairs inside The Independente Hostel and the first restaurant we hit the night we arrived in Lisbon. It was literally on the street above our airbnb, right on the main drag and across from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. A park with fountains and an upper and lower viewing areas. Go EARLY to see sunset and then hop across. Insolito means “unusual” and why we loved it so. The decor, the food was really a feast for your eyes. The menu was very innovative and the presentation was extraordinary. Unfortunately, my photos got lost in the cloud!  

I’d love to hear your favorite places to eat in Lisbon!

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