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A delicious dining experience at No. 46 of the World’s 50 Best – but not as great as in 2014: Restaurant Belcanto (7. January 2022)

| March 13, 2023 | 0 Comments

Last time I was at the Belcanto in 2014, it had just been nominated No. 98 of the World’s 50 Best. Since then it has gained one Michelin star (to a total of two) and climbed up to No. 46 in the world. Hence, I was relatively curious to experience it again, and hopefulyl better than I already had it in my memory.

I went for the “Evolution Tasting Menu” (EUR 225.00) with the “regular wine pairing” (EUR 150.00), which is definitely not a cheap combination, but something I was intrigued to try out. The evening started with an “interpretation of a Dry Martini” which was quite refreshing and perfect to get your palate started …

… and to then even increase more with a “cod liver brioche”. I liked the texture of the brioche and generally also the cod liver inside. However, the flavours were relatively intense and reminded one more of anchovies than of cod.

The next amuse bouche was “crispy chicken skin, egg yolk and squid”, “tuna belly with ponzu sauce” and a”golden pearl (foie gras mousse with coco butter on the outside)”. The first bite was quite interesting already, but the second one, the tuna belly was amazing. It was truly a revelation in terms of flavour and intensity. Finally, the ‘golden pearl’ was not that extraordinary since the coco butter somehow coated the rest of the flavours almost completely.

The first course of the evening was “smoked and cured horse mackerel, Algarve carrot and emulsion (2022)” and it was a good start. The horse mackerel has a certain saltiness and intensity which I enjoyed quite a bit. The different carrots added to the overall experience of the dish.

Then it was already time for a short bread break. They served three different kinds of butter: (1) “traditional butter from Azores”, which was intense and lovely; (2) “dried tomato with Portuguese sausage butter”, which was something I enjoyed incredibly much. I mean, it was like getting an almost liquid version of the grilled chorizo I had the previous night. Man, incredible! And (3), the “smoked butter with rosemary ashes”, which I found not as interesting as the other two.

From the three different breads they offered, I went for the “corn bread”, which was exquisite. It had a certain sweetness to it, which was truly enjoyable, and the “olive bread” was quite good as well.

The second official course of the menu was “beetroot in different textures, pine nut milk and caviars (2022)”. Again, it was an interesting course – the crunchy elements of the beetroot with the pine nut milk caviars was a nice combination, and once they had melted away, you would have kind of a soup which would combine with the beetroot – lovely.

The next course was “egg yolk with smoked eel, Jerusalem artichoke and bone marrow (2022)” and I must say, this was one of my favourites. For a couple of reasons. I like egg yolk when it’s used as part of a dish – because it adds a certain creaminess to the dish, which I find truly exquisite. Secondly, Jerusalem artichoke is one of my favourite vegetables, and thirdly, the saltiness of the bone marrow and the smoked eel really made it a great combination of flavours. What I found truly interesting were the ‘ashes’ which were put on top of it. It really added something to the dish.

So far, so good. Since I’ve had scarlet shrimp with curry in variations already twice the past ten days, I was kind of looking forward to the “scarlet shrimp curry, cauliflower and green apple (2021)”. The curry was much lighter and felt more like a Thai version of it (than an Indian one), but it was lacking a bit of intensity. To be fair, the green apple added to the dish in terms of texture and surprise element, but I was missing the intensity of the scarlet shrimp somehow, so I was quite a bit disappointed by the dish.

The “hake, coriander cod sounds and fig tree leaf (2020)”, which was the ‘oldest’ dish of the menu, was somehow rather uneventful in terms of flavour. I found it relatively bland – sure, there were single elements, which were nice in terms of taste and flavour, but somehow, for me, it was missing the ‘overall concept’ a bit.

The “squab, salsify, seasonal mushrooms and ‘pastel de massa tenra’ (fried pie) (2022)” on the other hand was good again. The squab was cooked perfectly medium-rare as requested, and had a bunch of very intense flavours, which combined nicely. Still, thinking about the dish one day later, there is no memory of a special flavour, which is a bit disappointing.

Before they moved on to the deserts, you were brought a sleave to clean your mouth (since this is what the chef used to use when he was a kid), which I found confusing and lovely at the same time.

The first desert was “‘Bacon-from-heaven’ and earth with leche de tigre granita (2021), which I, unfortunately, forgot to take a picture of. The dish was prepared with lard, which I found quite unusual for a desert, but was definitely quite interesting. The second desert, the “‘rabanada’ (Portuguese French toast), pear in different textures and rice pudding flavours (2022)” was nice, but didn’t surprise me too much in terms of flavour experience.

As friandise, you would finally get “tangerine jelly slices”, which were tasty, but a bit too sour for my personal gusto.

Luckily, you’re brought the entire menu after you have tried everything.

The place looked quite different from what I remember. After asking, it turns out that the place was switched, i.e., they moved to a larger space, and where the Belcanto originally was, they had opened the Encanto, which is right next door and is the vegetarian twin restaurant.

The service is really quite excellent and outstanding. The main waiter for the table was Nelson and he made sure you would have everything you wanted and needed at all times. He was super friendly, attentive, and made sure that I would get a new napkin when I used it to clean the spot on my shirt, or a new knife when mine dropped in the plate and got spoiled.

To sum it up, the Restaurant Belcanto definitely works on Michelin level – but personally, I’m not sure it’s a full two stars. Somehow, the dishes were good, but there was nothing memorable. There was nothing I will remember and say, oh wow, this was so good, I want to try it again, which is a pity. Because the place is lovely, the service is outstanding, and the overall concept really works. Last time I was here, I have this one dish in mind which was basically a plate resembling the sea and the other one which was an Onsen egg with leaf gold on top. 8 years ago, and I still remember these dishes. Frankly, this time, I’m not sure, I will have the same effect. The sign still remains the same as all these years ago :)


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Contact Details:

Restaurant Belcanto

Rua Serpa Pinto 10 A

1200-026 Lisboa (PT)

Tel.: +351 21 342 06 07

E-Mail: belcanto@belcanto.pt

Homepage: http://www.belcanto.pt

About the Author:

I started the blog in October 2009, while living in Milan which I definitely consider to be one of the food capitals of the world. I was in touch with food since my early childhood (as my father is a former chef). Whenever I can, I travel the world to discover new places, to meet people but mostly to try local dishes and to find hidden gems! If you know a place worth going, please drop a line to: info@thediningexperience.org. Currently, I am a member of the following food-related associations: Chevalier @Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Zurich-Ville; Membre Gourmet Dégustateur @Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Dégustateurs [OMGD]; Gesellschafter @Goldener Fisch and Member @Slowfood Convivium Zurich City.
EUR 720.50 (incl. tip) Filed in: Lisbon (PT), Restaurants, The World's 50 Best Restaurants

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