Step into a Portuguese dining room and venture into some old school specialties made with a modern twist. Nothing here is compromised, neither atmosphere nor flavor for every dish you’ll savor is an ingenious homage to the best in Portuguese cuisine.
Busy with businessmen and locals, this cheerful and quaint eatery fills with lively chatter as young waiters come and go wearing plaid shirts and jeans covered by long aprons ,echoes of the warm and casual ambience of “cantinho” which in Portuguese means “little corner”.
This “little corner’’ of Lisbon belongs to Jose Avillez, a young chef who has become one of the most renowned in the country, a celebrity of sorts with his own television show and several published cookbooks, one of which shares some of Cantinho’s best recipes printed in both Portuguese and English.
His creative approach combined with his passionate culinary spirit, come alive at Cantinho making it feel like a true farmhouse kitchen where anything you taste is bound to be fresh, delicious and certainly innovative.
Beginning with the queijo Nisa no forno com presunto com mele de rosmarinho. A delectable serving of a rather firm raw sheep’s milk cheese curdled with thisle flower. It’s served with baked presunto (Portuguese cured ham) and a drizzle of rosemary honey. Although somewhat robust, the mellow sweetness of the honey creates a perfect balance that turns it into a light and pleasing starter. Another appetizer that stood out was the vieras marinadas com abacate, a delicate sea scallop ceviche served with a sprinkle of fried breadcrumbs over a portion of fresh guacamole.
Chef Jose Avillez owns several restaurants in Lisbon, all offering a different sampling of Portuguese cuisine influenced by his many travels. Some include what he’s mastered through his training at El Bulli with famous chef Ferran Adrià, known for his molecular gastronomy, a trend Avillez often showcases with great grace.
A good example is the lascas de bacalhau, migas soltas, ovo bt e azeitonas explosivas. Tender flakes of cod mixed with homemade toasted breadcrumbs lie under a low temperature soft boiled egg and “explosive” olives, a name given to the bursting of flavor they deliver as you bite into them. They’re submitted to a process know as “spherification” which enhances their flavor adding a juicier yet subtle punch to the dish. I have tasted a lot of cod dishes in my life but nothing beats this one.
Other entrées that take in some of Avillez’s travels are the torricado de leitão de Negrais com sabores asiáticos, a serving of Asian inspired bruschetta of suckling pig from nearby Negrais in Sintra and the tagine de cordeiro, couscous de legumes e molho de iogurte, tender lamb tagine with vegetable couscous and tangy yogurt sauce. Also offered is a the “Barrosã DOP” hamburger with caramelized onion and foie gras, a juicy burger made with grass fed beef from the Barrosä breed of cattle known for the tender and flavorful quality of its meat.Leite-creme de laranja e baunilha, a light crème brûlée made with orange and vanilla is a nice, not too sweet, touch to the end of a meal. For those who wish to finish with a taste of liquor, a homemade lemon sorbet made with fresh basil and a touch of vodka as in the sorvete de limão com manjericão e vodka makes for the perfect refreshing dessert with a kick. Price Range: Lunch: between 6 euros and 20 euros Dish of the day 10.50 euros Cantinho do Avillez + 351 21 199 23 69 Rua dos Duques de Bragança, 7 1200-162 Lisboa Opening hours: Lunch: 12.30 – 15.00 (Monday – Saturday) Dinner: 19.30 – 00.00 (Monday – Saturday) Closed on Sunday