Chiado has gained a vegetarian fine dining restaurant. The menu is fixed, with surprises, and the warmth of those who serve us makes the visit worthwhile.
Chef José Avillez, owner of several dozen restaurants that open and close with great speed, has opened another one, Encanto, with an exclusively vegetarian menu. It might not be the epitome of sustainability, but similar to big brands opting to reduce plastic packaging or create a collection using bottles retrieved from the ocean floor, these small changes deserve applause.
At number 10 on Rua Serpa Pinto, the first Belcanto has already lived, as well as Canto, a project that combined food and music, and in which the chef joined forces with the musicians António Zambujo and Ana Moura. Now the music sets the mood, with bossa nova rhythms, although the whole atmosphere is very Portuguese.
On the ceilings and walls, arranged in a very original way, are details that scream national: straw hats, Bordallo Pinheiro, wooden spoons, small watering cans and plowshares, reminding us that what matters here is what the earth gives.
At the table, the dishes are meat and fish free, favoring vegetables and legumes, here worked in a very original way. Lupins, for example, comes in liquid shot form, the grain molds into golden hummus eggs.
The fixed menu costs 95€, and includes twelve small portions, ranging from appetizers to dessert, which may be paired by an eight-course wine menu (65€) or a five-course non-alcoholic beverage menu (45€).
The surprises of the dinner
The dishes arrive at the table in a roller coaster of hot, cold, finger food, and spoon-food.
The menu starts with small surprise snacks, with ingredients like celery, peanuts, mini peixinhos da horta (small fish from the garden), and the hummus molded into little eggs wrapped in gold, remembering the chocolate ones that we are used to eat at Easter.
Next comes a sourdough that asked for more filling, not least because it is made of broad beans and we all deserve more broad beans in life. To top it off, the drink made of lupine, in one of the most surprising presentations of the evening. Whoops, next they bring us bread being spread with a butter made from ash. After all, the surprise factor will linger.
We are more than ready for the main courses. We won’t dwell on the details of the menu, just leave you with these words, the same words the restaurant uses in the description of the dish: rice – black truffle – white asparagus – sheep’s butter. It made me want to cancel what was still to come and order another shot. But let’s get the strength to continue.
Desserts are not the strong point of the meal, although what they call the pre-dessert should win the main role. We mean the strawberry ice cream, served with a coconut cream and broccoli. Yes, broccoli.
The service is the friendliest there is, although the meal asked for more details in the presentation of the dishes and that they went beyond the description that already comes on the menu. The end of the meal also called for a better coffee, but that’s just us not liking to spoil our palate with the typical espresso that so often tastes like it’s burnt.
But everything else makes it worthwhile. The sympathy service of those who serve us is worth a lot, and that truffle rice even more.
P.S. Even though sustainability is not yet the focus in this restaurant group, we were told that, and I quote, “it is a path we are on”.
Another P.S. Even though the menu is not vegan, the restaurant provides one upon request. Just let them know in the reservation.
Address: Largo de São Carlos, 10, 1200-410 Lisboa
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 7 pm – 10:30 pm
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