Bacalao Rules

Old Lisbon

Arroz de mariscos, usually the highest-ticket item on any Portuguese menu, was an excellent value at Old Lisbon in the quantity of clams, mussels, squid rings, and jumbo Florida shrimp served; a one-person portion fed four. The seafood was impeccably fresh, too. And while the rice base itself was fairly flavorless, lacking the intense concentrated-tomato taste found in top versions of this Portuguese paella, Lisbon's arroz definitely was superior to most found in Portugal when it comes to vegetables. Namely, that there were some. Portugal's climate is ideal for agriculture, but its restaurants are largely vegetable-free zones, at least in terms of nonstarch crisp things. The typical vegetable accompaniments to almost all entrées in Portugal (and at Old Lisbon as well) are a mound of boiled or very greasy fried potatoes, a mountain of rice, or both.

Naturally this means that American systems scream for salad. And here, Old Lisbon was authentically Portuguese, too. The salada Portuguesa's lettuce, described on the menu as mixed greens, consisted exclusively of iceberg. A few carrot shreds completed the crunch quotient. A generous sprinkling of diced Portuguese cheese and brined olives added the piquancy that the oil-and-vinegar salad dressing lacked.

Portuguese Man of More: Chef Antonio Magalhäes dishes out Iberia
Steve Satterwhite
Portuguese Man of More: Chef Antonio Magalhäes dishes out Iberia

Portuguese desserts, typically just sweet puddings, disappoint most people with sophisticated tastes. Diners with severely serious sweet teeth, though, will adore delicia de Fatima, an over-the-top affair of layered condensed milk, whipped cream, and crushed galletas Mariacookies. And for those who prefer to drink dessert, an even more overwhelmingly sweet treat awaits: The restaurant carries several dozen ports, guaranteeing a warm-fuzzy festive-meal ending even for those who find Portuguese food in general, and Old Lisbon's take in particular, somewhat a work in progress.

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