By Jessica Allen
Given its proximity to, and dependence on, the ocean, Portuguese cuisine features many types of seafood, from octopus to oysters to cod. But the country also has a mean pastry tradition, including heavenly egg tarts, as well as a booming wine industry (we get the word “port” from the city of Porto) and does great things with lamb and other types of meat. Here are our five favorite restaurants for Portuguese fare around town. Go hungry.
31 West 17th St.
New York, NY 10011
We had a great dinner at Aldea a few years ago that we’re still dreaming about. But don’t just take our word for it: the New York Times gave this elegant Flatiron restaurant two stars and the fine folks behind the Michelin guide have recognized it as well. Owner/head chef George Mendes was born in the United States to Portuguese parents and he honors his ancestry as well as the delicious flavors of the entire Iberian Peninsula. For the optimum experience, order the multi-course tasting menu with components that depend on what’s in season and available at local markets.
68 Fifth Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
You may have to shake your head once or twice upon entering Convivium Osteria: you certainly wouldn’t be the first person to feel as if you’d left Park Slope and somehow landed in a Portuguese wine cellar. Enhance the effect with a glass of wine recently imported from the old country and an appetizer of baby octopus garnished with tomatoes, red onion, and gigante beans. So committed to honest, pure flavor are the owners and chefs that they only serve meat that has been humanely raised and seasoned solely with pink Himalayan salt.
835 Sixth Ave.
New York, NY 10001
When Lupolo opened in 2015, Steve Cuozzo, the food critic for the New York Post, called it “New York’s sexiest restaurant.” Not much has changed in the intervening years, thankfully, and this Chelsea spot still makes for a date-to-impress, particularly if you can snag a seat at the long U-shaped bar. Lupolo means “hops” and the concept is modeled on a Portuguese tavern—definitely order a beer from the carefully curated list. The food’s really good too: the kitchen is helmed by George Mendes, who also oversees Aldea. Try the chicken piri piri (small, hot chili peppers).
138-40 101st Ave.
Jamaica, NY 11435
An oldie but a goodie. O Lavrador has dazzled diners from Queens and beyond for going on four decades. We particularly love the unpretentious, homey atmosphere, drawing as it does families from near and far to enjoy such dishes as a seafood stew featuring ham and chouriço (homemade sausage), served over rice. For dessert, opt for the serradura. OK, so serradura means “sawdust” in Portuguese, but the name fits only insofar as the crumbled bits of vanilla cookies nestled against and among heaps of sweet cream mousse resemble wood shavings. They taste like sheer joy.
97 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10009
When it comes to cuisine, walking around the East Village is like walking around the world. Few neighborhoods in the city boast as dizzying an array of edible options as this one, and many incredible bites can be had for not too many dollars. Case in point: Taberna 97. Here you’ll find all kinds of traditional Portuguese fare, including caldo verde (soup made with potato, sausage, and collard greens), camarão ao alho (shrimp cooked with white wine and garlic), polvo grelhado (grilled octopus), and bacalhau a bras (cod with scrambled eggs and black olives).