Fine-Dining Places: José Avillez Opens Three Restaurants In One ♦ José Avillez in three in one: the Portuguese chef invited the Argentinean Estanislao Carenzo to open a Portuguese-Asian restaurant in Lisbon, but instead of one, they opened two spaces. Or three, if you count on the bar. In the heart of Chiado, an area already considered Avillez’ Kingdom. The Rei da China opened this Wednesday, March 27, in soft-opening. Casa dos Prazeres opens next Tuesday, April 2 and Secrets from Portugal has embarked on another trip to the empire. Do you join us?
♦ Discover The Portuguese Fine-Dining Places And Subscribe To Our Newsletter ♦
Avillez is already the king of Chiado, but the empire has widened, both for the country, with concepts of author and ethnic projects with international chefs, as well as across borders – the first restaurant outside Portugal opened a few weeks ago, a Portuguese Tasca in a luxury hotel in Dubai. In Lisbon, the expansion continues and this time the renowned chef opens not one but two restaurants with an Argentine specializing in Asian cuisine: the Rei da China, a faster format with places to the counter and a strong take-away component, and Casa dos Prazeres, beyond the service doors of this first space, a kitchen that explores and deepens the gastronomic connection between Portugal and Asia.
The days of the inauguration, still with incoming merchandise and everything in it, a few meters away from Pitaria (another concept of Avillez, only from the pitas of the Middle East), Estanislao Carenzo is in charge of all operations. He met José Avillez in 2011 during a trip to Mexico, and the first talks began for a partnership in Lisbon. “I didn’t know the Portuguese cuisine and I’m still learning. It’s very private, very different from other parts of the Peninsula”, he says.
On the ground floor is the King of China, a soup bar with very affordable prices, similar to those of a street food truck. “I’ve never done anything like it but the truth is that there are not many people to understand a soup as a complete main meal. The Portuguese understand “, he explains. The focus is the supersopas, made from the roots. There are three, the pho bo loi, a scented broth of veal in two cooking, mussel, rice dough and many herbs (8.50 €), the dandan mian, a mushroom soup with homemade wheat pasta, peanut sauce , green beans and olive oil (8,50 €) and pork ramen, with a supercaldo of chicken of the field, roasted duck, homemade wheat pasta, grelos and marinated egg (€ 9). There are also the Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, with breaded rump, Asian pickles, cucumber, watercress and coriander, to remember our breaded sandwich (6,50 €) or another with fried eggplants (5.80 €), curry of chickpeas (€ 2) codfish with Thai (€ 1.80) and a marinade of seaweed and roasted pumpkin (€ 2.50). All prepared to pick up and take away and make a full meal without major formalities. “In the House of Pleasures [on the top floor] it’s completely different. You do not even have a meal with one plate, “he admits.
Passing the service doors, next to the counter of the King of China, plus a sense of transgression, the diner will feel that he has entered a completely different place. There are velvets, comfortable armchairs and a bar with cocktails that follow the Luso-Asian line, such as Gimlet Lisbon, with gin, lima kaffir and ginjinha (10 €). “It’s a kind of reception,” the chef explains, “and it’s not fortuitously secret. It’s another restaurant that happens to be behind the King of China.”
♦ Discover The Portuguese Fine-Dining Places And ♦
Best Design Hotels In The World That Will Enchant You
From the bar, you have to climb some stairs, with neon jellyfish suspended to light the way, to reach the dining room of the Casa dos Prazeres. Intimate atmosphere, open only for dinners. The menu is divided into small plates, dishes and dishes, accompaniments and desserts, made with mainly Portuguese products but interpreted in an Asian way – “there is a lot that the locals do not know and others that they know but in other ways,” he says. It has since the spring rolls of Vietnam stuffed with black pork and crab (8,20 €) to the kinilaws, the Philippine dish that gave origin to the ceviche, corvina (8 €) or heart of lamb (7 €), a confit piglet with Chinese vinegar (7 €), or a few clams to the Bulhão Duck holiday in Southeast Asia (€ 10), a very simple version that has only new seasonings and shows well the philosophy of this restaurant and the chef himself.
“All the dishes are a trip, we will never have fireworks, I want everything to make sense,” he adds. The idea is to order a series of plates, which will arrive at the table all at the same time and go to taste one thing and another, until ordering one of the larger dishes and continue sharing.
In this section of these fine-dining places there is a surprising curry of pork in garlic, with cured entremeada, Madeira wine, tamarind and roasted carrots (14 €) that comes from a familiar recipe from one of the restaurant’s cooks, and steaks of fish with fennel and ginger aroma, fresh mushrooms and fermented bean butter (13 €). All with side dishes, from the simplest glutinous rice (3 €) to the greens in flower (4 €). And although there are no large desserts in Asia, the chef is sensitive to the Portuguese’s need to finish the meal with a sweetmeat – he will therefore find Japanese kasutera bread, green tea with cane honey ice cream (4 €), or coconut fermented with grapes of grapefruit and Asian grapefruit (€ 4).
Over time, it is likely that the menu of these fine-dining places will evolve and there will be greater use of Portuguese ingredients, according to the discovery of Estanislao Carenzo. For the time being, he is very fond of the game, and his favourite meal is grilled grouper.
♦ Portuguese Fine-Dining Places: Discover All The Secrets from Portugal ♦