You know when you plan one of those wonderful trips and you spend months daydreaming about it until you go? And then everything turns out almost as wonderful as you pictured it? Portugal was one of the highlights of my travels so far in 2017! I’m a huge foodie, so in particular, I was looking forward to Portuguese food. A wide diversity of Portuguese food. So the morning after landing, L and I made our way to Belcanto – Portugal’s top Michelin starred restaurant. The only two starred restaurant in Lisbon! Chef Jose Avillez delivered.
Belcanto (March 2017)
Address: Largo de São Carlos, 10, Lisbon
Hours: Closed Sunday and Monday, offers lunch 12:30-3pm, and dinner 7pm-11pm. The same menu is offered at both seatings.
Price range: A la carte and tasting menus available here
Reservations: Call them at +351 213 420 607 (Website is: http://belcanto.pt/EN/). Highly recommend you call 1-2 months in advance, as we were only able to make lunch reservations when I called 1 month before arrival!
Consistent with much of Portuguese cuisine, Belcanto’s food is very much all about the flavor. Jose Avillez is oftentimes dubbed one of the great Portuguese chefs, and it is not surprising. Since 2011, he has opened a diversity of restaurants in Lisbon and Porto, and appeared in several cooking shows. His training in France and with Ferran Adria reflects itself in the presentation of his food. Because of his upbringing in Cascais, a seaside town nearby Lisbon, Chef Avillez focuses on seafood. 70% of the menu contains seafood items.
At Belcanto, two tasting menus are offered. The first, the Discoveries menu, essentially however Chef Avillez would like to put Portugal on many many plates. The second, the Lisbon menu, focused on highlighting more traditional aspects of Portuguese cooking. The Discoveries menu is far more seafood heavy and the more popular of the two, and the Lisbon menu contains far more meat. For those who revolve their life choices around whether or not they can instagram their meal, I can assure you, they are both equally picturesque. While Belcanto does not have the thrills of an edible balloon or smoke wafting out of various tools, the explosion of flavor should more than make up for it. The Discoveries menu does not have individual dishes listed – the kitchen wields full power over the meal that day.
I have recently joined the group of people who prefer to be surprised by their meals. If a master helms the ship, I prefer to sit and enjoy the ride. As a result, I’m limiting the number of pictures of the meal for this blog post, simply because it would ruin the delightful surprises along the way. Perhaps he already overhauled the menu in the last few weeks!
What I will share is this. Avillez, as with many gastronomically focused Michelin starred chefs, singularly concerns himself with the taste of his food. Oftentimes, presented in the most bizarre of fashions. A garlic tastes like a garlic and looks like a garlic but is not a garlic? Likewise for an olive? It almost seems like my philosophical perspectives class during freshman year of college, but with the lovely addition of explosive taste.
I do need to shout out to the adorable and lovely waitstaff at Belcanto. Many of them are multilingual, to address the wide range of visitors to the restaurant. Throughout lunch hour, they conversed in fluent French, English, and Spanish. They presented each dish (or in some instances, 3-4 plates as a “dish”) with all the proper flourishes, smiles, and soft spoken explanations of what we were about to consume.