R. São João da Mata 41,
“Dois pessoas, por favor.” When Orlando, the 34-year owner of Zuari, one of Lisbon’s most acclaimed Goan restaurants, heard our request for a two-person lunch seating, he seemed confused. He looked around the completely empty restaurant, and an immediately frustrated look came over his face. “It’s all full!” We walked past empty table after empty table, as he directed us to a tiny little table in front of a door leading to the kitchen. Apparently the only available seating? Who else was there – ghosts? At noon on a Thursday?
No matter – we had seats, and we wanted to eat. Lisbon is probably one of the best locations for Goan food outside of the former Portuguese colony turned Indian state, but as with any establishment, we were worried that the owners had changed the dishes to conform to more sensitive, even muted, Portuguese tastes. Luckily, we were wrong. For starters, the menu was encouraging: entirely in Portuguese. Few tourists coming this way, apparently – far from the city center and the metro, that’s usually a good sign. Orlando patiently explained the menu to us, as we had never heard of “Sarapatel” before. He spoke quickly, and M caught words like carne (meat) and pedacos (pieces) of linga (tongue) and a quick statement that “tudo e bom” – it’s all very good. He then scurried away, finally explaining the reason he seemed so frazzled: a big party was going to start there in about twenty minutes.
In we put the order: a bottle of water, two sides of white rice. For a starter we went with the obligatory Apas, a type of bread unique to Goan cuisine ( €0,75). It has a texture similar to a very thin version of naan, and a similar flavor, yet somehow manages to remain thick and hearty. L tried to Chacuti de Galinha (€7,00), a type of chicken curry with coconut milk and “spices.” A few taste tests later, and we could detect mint, cumin, coriander, cardamom, and black pepper. A slight spicy kick with a fantastic flavor profile, and three pieces of chicken – the real stuff, still on the bone – was more than expected. M went with the Sarapatel (€7,00), a mix of diced and pulled pork and tongue, simmered in a spicy – very spicy – and flavorful sweet tomato-based sauce. The texture and taste reminded us of a very spicy version of Carolina barbecue pulled pork. Regular readers of the blog will know how we feel about that! Plus, the spice level was one of the few dishes ever to satisfy M’s Scoville scale requirement, and he didn’t even have to make a special request!
The only disappointment of the day was that Zuari was out of their famous mango ice cream, due to the party preparations. We would have liked to try it, but the unexpectedly complex flavors in our dishes, combined with the great price – €20,00 for the whole meal – made this easily our best meal in Lisbon thus far.