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Trip Report of food and restaurants in Portugal

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I have to say that in general food was not the highlight of our trip. Perhaps we are used to a more highly spiced and varied cuisine. We found Portuguese food somewhat heavy and bland in general. My favorite dishes were the Alentejo black pork and some of the duck dishes.

As noted by others the portions tend to be huge and we soon learned to split an appetizer if we were having one. I can't imagine how the Portuguese stay so slim with such large portions (we usually couldn't finish what we were served). I don't think though that I saw a single overweight Portuguese person - how do they do it?!!

If you want water on the table you need to ask for it and you will pay for it (specify with or without gas (bubbles)). Most restaurants will put bread and perhaps olives, cheese, or butter on the table. If you eat it there is a charge. They are not trying to trick or cheat you (I know it seems strange to Americans), it's just how they do. If you ignore it they don't charge you. A few of the restaurants in the more touristy places were pushy about it - most just left it for us to decide, or asked first. If we were hungry or in the mood for bread or olives we ate it - and if not no problem. In a couple the offered little appetizers looked really special and we decided to indulge (a dish of cod and garbanzos in olive oil in Arreilos, and in Evora Tasquina de Oliveira specialized in the little appetizers - we indulged in crab and a cheese with honey mustard, both of which were amazing). In the more expensive restaurants they will put on the menu the "cover" - bread, butter and some kind of spread and it will say how much it is (between 2 and 5 E usually), sometimes a glass of champaign is included - took us a bit to figure that out.

In general the service was impeccable except in the most touristy lunch places.

We had four really special meals and highly recommend the following:
Lisboa - Xapuri (a small tapas place in the Chiado) and Eleven, (has a michelin star), extremely expensive, we did a big gulp when we saw the prices, and then gave ourselves permission to enjoy it and oh my it was one of the best meals ever.
Evora - the above mentioned Tasquina de Oliveira
Obidos - Cozinha Das Reinhas. - awesome service and food

Honorable mention goes to O Italia in Belem, and an Italian restaurant in Tomar whose name I don't have, Mindi Indian restaurant in Porto, the restaurant in the Grand Hotel in Luso where we stopped for lunch, and the restaurants in the Pousada in Evora and at the Palace Hotel in Bussaco.

and finally, all the hotels served amazing breakfast spreads - perhaps my favorite meal of the day, with fresh bread and rolls (all the bread in Portugal that we ate was incredibly fresh), cheeses, meats, yogurts, fruit and just in general lovely offerings.

hope that is helpful to folks. bon appetitie

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