Tuesday, 22 July 2008

18.07.08: Restaurante Rio Coura

Who knew that having to abandon one of Lisbon's cool-breeze, thrill-ride trams and head back on foot (a car broke down on track in front) would lead us to the exact dining experience we were hoping our first nite would bring?

The Rio Coura's window display o' fish and the apparently local clientele attracted us, though the strong fishy aroma inside did not. Still, it was getting on to dinnertime after a long, hot day of trekking, so in we went.

First, they brought us a generous basket of crusty bread, a round of soft Nisa cheese, and a plate of cold, deep-fried sardines.

Soon after, our small bottle of vinho verde arrived, along with the mixed salad...

...and We were more than halfway to full when the mains arrived: His grilled sea bass with greens and chips...
...and Her grilled sole with same.

HE SAYS: I think we lucked out on this one. I spied more than a couple of aging regulars to give it an authentic feel as soon as we walked in, and the waiter was run off his feet and sweating profusely, a sign of being understaffed or popular? I chose to believe the latter.

The starters appeared swiftly. The mini sardines appeared to be shallow fried, a little crunchy but tasty, and the cheese was pretty stinky-gooey good too. My main was good but not fantastic, in fact I was more then a little jealous of Her plate. I was not expecting my fish to be a chunk of giant sea bass, it tasted more like swordfish, which I also like but was not expecting. The salad I found to be rustic and simple but with a few additionally glugs of olive oil as dressing served as a great complement to the grilled portion of the plate.

Walked away from the table a little tipsy from the sparkling bubblelicious vinho verde, not too sweet and pleasantly citrusy (like a high-class Blue Nun if there is such a thing).

SHE SAYS: The biggest surprise had to be how much I enjoyed the sardines, which at first I didn't even want to look at. (They just brought them to the table - these little favours aren't free, but it's kind of nice to have something unexpected to start you off.)

He made the first move, then assured me 'it isn't what you think, you'll like them.' I tentatively bit into one, crunching tiny bones and all - and indeed, I liked! It was a little like eating bony shrimp, the flavour was subtle and mostly tasted of the thin fried flour coating the sardines.

The cheese was v. camembert-ish, gluey and pungent, eminently spreadable. When our vinho came, it proved eminently gulpable - hugely refreshing, not too tart, and slightly carbonated.

And my main plate, though v. simple, was well-prepared: succulent, lightly seasoned sole perfectly grilled, tender, bitter greens, and piping-hot if rather lardy chips, all balanced by the salad liberally dressed with white vinegar, which was unusually moreish, maybe b/c of the bright contrast in flavour.

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