It seems that in recent years we're always travelling on the Missus's birthday, which She says is the "second" best gift She could get (the first being a Chanel something or other...). This year, I wanted to have a nice, a more fine dining type of dinner, something special. So I made reservations several months in advance at Assinatura, which seemed to be a rising star of a restaurant in Lisbon, supposedly elevating traditional Portuguese cuisine. This seemed like the perfect spot for us.
One could easily question our sanity having started the day with a "pork-fest (and beer) for breakfast sandwiched between pastel de natas, then having some Frango Assado for lunch. Still, this was way more walking than I'm used to, which left me with a good appetite.
Getting there was easy, perhaps too easy, just a straight shot on the Blue line getting off at Marques de Pombal. Up the street and a few blocks later we passed the street Assinatura was located on. Over an hour early. It was breezy and there was a chill in the air, and we had time to kill, so now what? Well, it seemed to be the perfect time to initiate the "Lisbon Rule", whenever you start getting a bit confused and frustrated, it's time for some espresso and a Pastel de Nata. We walked up the street for a bit and found this shop near the Rato stop on the Yellow line.
It was warm and full of local color. This was a place to chat and take in the folks having a snack here. There were the three older women, dressed so primly, who sat by the front window, and were obviously locals who did this quite often, having quite the conversation. A gentleman and his daughter, stopping for a snack, talking in that animated, conspiratory tone that only fathers and daughters have, lively, tinged with laughter and teasing. After walking out of the shop, he hoisted her on his shoulder. And the quiet gentleman, beret tilted slightly on his head, who periodically opened the portfolio placed precisely aligned to the corner of the table, occasionally removing a pamphlet or a letter which he would open and read with what seemed like scrupulous detail.
We found this so refreshing....there was no texting, no iPads, no cellphones going off, no hipster, machiatic-soy latte-grande on my acai-kale drink thing going on. It seemed so organic and real that it felt like we had been beamed back to another time.
I don't remember much about the espresso, nor the pastries. What I do remember is really taking in the atmosphere which was priceless. Just the perfect break we needed at the right time.
Largo do Rato 7
Fortified, we headed back to Assinatura arriving at about 720. There was already a line in place, of folks who had reservations! It seems that a good number of folks were with a large party who were seated downstairs near the kitchen at the Chef's table.
The dining room at Assinatura was just our speed; nice, but understated. The service during our meal was good, our Server, a very professional young lady really knew her stuff and managed her staff well. The timing was perfect, no extended delays. Just what you'd expect out of a restaurant of this caliber.
Assinatura has a regular menu and several tasting menus, three of which are "tasting menus", where you put yourself in the hands of the chef, which was fine with us. You can't mix and match, so we both had the same menu, the seven course (61 E), with one set of wine (35 E).
I have to say that things started out rather inauspiciously for us as the bread was cold and not particularly remarkable, though the olive oil from Alentejo was marvelously grassy and full bodied.
The amuse, which we were told was not "an amuse" since that is French, was a very nice pastry stuffed with wonderfully creamy and rich bacalhau. The salt cod really stood up well to this rich preparation.
Next up was an Octopus Terrine with Peanut Sauce.
There was also pineapple in this dish, which to our tastes was rather disjointed. The peanut sauce, was pretty much peanut butter and the octopus kind of had a chewy texture (we've had more tender octopus) which made for a kind of weird mouthfeel for us. The pineapple was too sweet without enough acid to cut through all of this and nothing stood out in terms of flavor.
Even worse was the Sardine.....
Which was so fishy, even the tomato couldn't cut it. Sadly, it was sardine season and this was probably the worst sardine we had during our entire trip.
Next up was a White Gazpacho of sorts with Bacalhau.
Unfortunately, nothing really stood out here. The salt cod was very mild, which I guess might be a good thing. The"gazpacho" was quite weak and didn't bring anything bold or acidic to the table.
The next dish was my favorite of the evening. It was swordfish with pea puree...which really doesn't sound that great......but it was possibly the best piece of swordfish, something I'm not fond of, that I've ever had.
The fish was so very tender and moist, meaty and perfectly flaky. The caramelized onions brought a perfect sweet-acidity. The prawns added an umami touch. But the one item on the plate that really surprised me in this combination of flavors was how the sweet and earthy pea puree just grounded the dish. Man, this was good!
Next up was another well done dish; what seemed like a homage to the Francesinha.
The crisp bread. the milky cheese, and that wonderful pork flavor that I associate with a good Bifana. This was a lovely dish.
After having a good share of tasting menus, I've found that dessert doesn't often live up to the savory dishes offered. This was an exception as the Missus totally loved it.
Along with dessert we were served a very, very good selection of three cheeses. Now if I was really on top of things I'd tell you what cheeses they were. All I can say is that they were really good with the aged Port I had!
All in all a good, but not great meal. I kind of think that if you're spending over two hundred bucks you'd expect a bit more, but perhaps that's just us.
Rua Vale do Pereiro 19 A