January 2005

Here is traditional Portuguese cuisine served in a gracious Old World dining room. Similar to Spanish cuisine in the way Greek and Lebanese cooking are similar, Portuguese fare does have its own distinctive quality. This is best seen in preparations like Ameijoas na Cataplana, a stew of clams, sausage, presunto, and olive oil; the well-known caldo verde, a soup of puréed potatoes, kale, and Portuguese sausage; and cod fritters.

The Portuguese make much of cod. It shows up shredded and sautéed with olives, egg, and straw potatoes, and grilled with garlic and onions. Grilled chicken is made more interesting with the spicy pepper sauce known as piri piri, and grilled meats usually involve a sauce or demi-glace of sherry or port. The best of these are grilled lamb chops with port-wine sauce, a veal chop with dry sherry, and a New York strip with Madeira.

Seared steak topped with an egg is worth getting for the house-made potato chips, and calf's liver with onions and bacon is humble yet savory fare. Paella is probably best eaten elsewhere. A red-wine-poached pear with honey cinnamon ice cream is the winning dessert. The wine list is mostly Portuguese and Spanish, and reasonably priced.

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