Casa Marcelo

When speaking about Haute Galician cuisine there are a few names that come to mind, but rarely do we hear  Marcelo Tejedor, even if he probably is the “godfather” of an entire generation of chefs and restaurants with a refined gastronomic predicament.

Graduated alongside Juan Maria Arzak, Jacques Maximin, Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse, in 1999 he return to Santiago and started the first of his revolutions. Let’s see, on his first drapery, Casa Marcelo appeared as a gastronomic restaurant, with an open kitchen, where the cooks were many times the elements in the room, and to that he added a single option, a tasting menu – to the reader it may look simple, and you see that everywhere, but in 1999 it was very disruptive.

History, the crises, and a restless brain made Marcelo start another revolution with his project in 2013, the restaurant was then a gastro bar, ending its gastronomic phase based on critics and Michelin stars; being more informal, client-centred and with an offer of modern Galician cuisine all about tapas!

The quick success and the sensitive cuisine of Marcelo and his right hand Martín Vásquez made the Red Guide forget of all its demands (at least in the Portuguese version…) and give it back its Michelin star, keeping it since then.

But on to the night of our visit, installed in the kitchen (the entire restaurant is an open space so we can stay in the red shared table or in different sections of the space) and honoured to have Martín as our cicerone, we chose to put ourselves in their hands and go ahead with our diner.

There’s no better way to start than bread, and what a bread! It’s produced daily at the kitchen of Casa Marcelo and it’s perfect in every way, worth a visit by itself – I would be happy to leave with a basket of it.

Black pearl oyster, padrón pepper
A very delicate oyster paired with a padrón pepper sauce and a spice oil, showcasing the fusion of cultures and flavours the cuisine at Marcelo’s is known for.

Bass “tiradito”, Aji Amarillo
Galician product, Peruvian influence, an amazing tiradito very well balanced in terms of acidity and spicy notes.

Cherry tomato salad, cucumber
A classic at the restaurant, with several versions over the years, and although simple looking, it’s not. Skinless tomato, cucumber granita and a secret sauce that binds all the elements in a beautiful combination of sweetness and acidity. Perfect!

Al ajillo shrimp Har-Gao
Here we start noticing the Asian influence, so well-accomplished experiences that lead to the opening of his recent restaurant Mr Chu. Back to our Har-Gao, the first one was slightly stuck to the plate, losing some of the dough, and its full sensation on the mouth. Having realized that, another one quickly came to the table, brilliantly made! Perfectly cooked shrimp, strong Spanish cuisine notes and a dim sum dough I never found in a non-Asian restaurant.

Grilled sardines, ratatouille
Another house classic that we could eat by the dozen. We could have it like these in our popular festivals, perfect texture, enrichened by the vegetables and a crunchy base to grab, have a bit and feel. Is it asking too much?

Cuttlefish poke
Slightly cooked cuttlefish on its own ink, and sushi rice. Good quality rice, a tasty combo, but the texture of the cuttlefish was not the best. Despite having absolutely nothing wrong with it, it was the least interesting dish of the evening.

Grilled bream, pak choi
Another perfect combination of Galician products with an Asian flavour, with a masterfully use of the grill, the fish was tender and delicate, with an amazing sauce.

Tartar steak
Those who don’t like tartar steak for sure never tried this one, and those who did won’t find enough adjectives for it. It’s got all you could ask of it, and those of you who know me, know who much I like a good tartar steak!

 Spicy Toro poke
Opposite to the cuttlefish poke, this one was perfect – the amazing tuna belly with all its fatness, nicely paired with the spicy notes of the seasoning. One of those dishes you can’t stop eating…

Leak-potato, egg yolk and Iberian bacon 
On the menu since the first version of the restaurant, the potato is cut and pressed to look like a leak, very crunchy, with lots of nuances and gourmand contrasts with the adding of the bacon and the yolk. One of those good sins!

Stewed cherries, mascarpone
It could be a tiramisù, but it was more interesting… The slightly cooked cherry melted perfectly with the delicate mascarpone cream and the sour notes of the cocoa. Very good!

Avocado, pineapple and coconut
Freshness, freshness, freshness, that’s how I like to end my long meals and that’s how we ended a memorable dinner at Casa Marcelo. Flawless textures, acidity, sweetness and fatness in the right proportions. Balance is the name for this dessert!

The wine list is not long, but it has handpicked options, where obviously the Galician wines have the spotlight and the prices are fair. We drank a La Pola 2016, from Ribeira Sacra, made from godello, albariño and dona branca, a wine that went well with the entire meal with its nuances and structure, not being tiring.

The service is frantic and at the same time super professional, leading us into a working scenario where everyone is surrounding the table, preparing the delicacies to be served.

Final Remarks
Thankfully there are people like Marcelo Tejedor, free people willing to take risks, without the fear of others opinions or distinctions. That rare personality, talent, and gastronomic sensitivity make Marcelo such a special chef, probably the most special in all the Galician region. Showing us distant flavours mixed with Galician ones, and also proving that haute cuisine doesn’t need to be still, or have certain service standards or even decoration. It has yes, to show us new paths, open our horizons and surprise us at every bite, and most of all respect the product.

We need more people like Marcelo and more trips like this one we went on as soon as entering the door. I’ll be missing this place and promise a soon return. Lots of returns!

Casa Marcelo
Prices from 45€ – (without wines)
Rua das Hortas, 1, 15705 – Santiago de Compostela – Spain
+34 981 55 85 80

Versão Portuguesa

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The Vintage House

As you know, Douro has a very special place in my heart, and I can’t get tired of visiting, falling in love a bit more every time. We went back to The Vintage House at Pinhão, a place that brings us memories we don’t ever want to forget!

Now in charge of The Fladgate Partnership (with business associated with Port wine, tourism and distribution and also two other hotels –  The Yeatman and Hotel Infante Sagres), The Vintage House presents a new image, keeping its very characteristic tradition and charm.

An old cellar gave place to a luxury hotel with one of the most idyllic views of our country, this is the story of The Vintage House.

Located at Pinhão, dominated by terraced vineyards and estates, the bedroom balconies present this breathtaking view each morning.

First impressions
Arriving at the hotel, the reception by the staff was nice and cordial. Now the check-in is made in a more spacious room, quite cosy and with views over the river and the vineyards. We were offered a welcome drink while waiting in one of the comfortable sofas.

 Reception area

After the check-in, we were accompanied by a staff member that showed us some important places at the hotel, its new dynamic and organization, and forwarded us to our room.

Bedrooms
There are several types – Standard, Junior Suite, Suite Deluxe and Master Suite, all with the same important thing: the amazing views over the river and the vineyards!

We stayed in a spacious Junior Suite, with a bathroom that makes you sigh (you know how much I love a good bathroom!). With a generous 42m2 and its king-size bed, very comfy for a few relaxing days.

The decor follows the pattern of the hotel, classic, like an old family house that passes through several generations.

But nothing is more important in these bedrooms than falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of Douro, with the vineyards as confidants!

Lunch at restaurant Rabelo

Restaurants
The Vintage (allow me to treat it as a friend) presents us with three spaces, the Rabelo restaurant, the Library Bar and the Salão do Rio.

At the first one, we had the chance to have lunch at the terrace with vines over our heads and a wonderful and calm view over the Douro. If you choose to stay inside you are presented with the walls full of paintings of Douro.

But with good weather and the surrounding scenery, it would even be irresponsible to not seat at the terrace. Lunch went much better than in our previous visit, with well-prepared dishes and some good technical details, with a highlight to the selection of local bread and a great codfish.

The Library

At Library we spent an excellent late afternoon having some snacks and tasting a good wine (well, João did, since I was pregnant with Francisca at the time!). The bar has the atmosphere of an old house where wood is queen. Comfortable enough, classic and elegant as the rest of the hotel.

A special note to the nice employee that accompanied us during this idle time!

At Salão do Rio we had the chance to have a big breakfast with some love from a very sweet employee and here care about me being pregnant. Highlight to the staff! Salão do Rio also has wonderful views over the vineyards and Douro.

At the pool, you can have light meals and have refreshing drinks throughout the day!

Services
We can start with the beautiful and calm pool right in front of the river, following all the corners of the hotel that deserve a walk around. Inside the hotel, we have also the pleasant Salão dos Ingleses, a game room with a pool table, tv and fireplace.

The Hotel also offers a Tennis court, and wine tasting, with regional products and a wine store. It also has duly prepared rooms for conferences and events.

For activities outside the hotel, we have the chance to live unique moments along the Douro Valley, namely on board of PipaDouro or visiting one of the several Quintas of Douro, for instance, Quinta do Bomfim that is very nearby, with its famous restaurant Casa dos Ecos in charge of the Chef Pedro Lemos offering an amazing gastronomic experience!

Also very close to the hotel we have Quinta da Roêda and the possibility to visit and knowing its history and even have a nice picnic in a very intimate space with an astonishing view over the Douro.

Service
Unfortunately is general knowledge that is very hard to find graduated employees in hospitality/restaurants, mostly in the region of Douro. At Vintage our experience went well, without any problems with the service. The staff is young and nice, and the way we were welcomed in every department of the hotel was warm and caring.

A very positive note to the staff at the Library Bar and Salão do Rio. Ponto bastante positivo para os funcionários que estiveram connosco no Library bar e no Salão do Rio.

See you soon Vintage House!

The Vintage House
Bedrooms from 180€
R. António Manuel Saraiva, 5085-034 Pinhão
+351 254 730 230
reservations@vintagehousehotel.com

Portuguese Version

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Neolokal

Several years have passed since we last visited Istanbul, and in the meantime a lot changed in the city, and Neolokal was not an exception. Maksut Askar’s talent crossed borders, and a lot was written in the foreign press, he gained a spot in the 50Best Discovery, and he also made a pit stop in Lisbon for a dinner with Pedro Pena Bastos, in the now extinct, Ceia.

With very vivid memories of his cuisine and the way he broke down and modernized the Anatolian cooking tradition, a return to Neolokal was mandatory in a new visit to this Turkish city.

And in good time we did so!

Neolokal’s dining room keeps its very special charm, very cosmopolitan, it could easily be in London or New York! But in reality it is in the Galata neighboorhood with an astonishing view over Sultanahmet that it all makes sense!

When looking at the menu we easily realize that it all evolved and no detail is left to chance, a welcome menu, the menu, an explanation about the origin and making of every dish, and a guide about the Turkish wines – Neolokal keeps an exclusively Turkish wine list, and actually, they recently opened a wine bar, with an highlight on natural wines and authentic food called – Foxy Local & Real.

The tasting menu consists in a series of dishes to share, split into several Mezze sections (vegetarian, cold, warm), fish courses, meat, and of course, desserts. The client chooses its own menu, number of dishes and which ones.

Sourdough bread with mushroom butter 

If on our previous visit we were delighted with the bread, we can attest it’s still a must of the restaurant, and now even with more character and personality, due to the living years of the dough, it’s really hard not to eat it with the entire meal.

After the bread, the courses promptly started arriving, with the 3 dishes of every section arriving at the same time, like in any traditional table.

 

Cabbage dolmade and Siyez
Siyez is the oldest grain in Anatolia and one of the first to be used by Men, here known as Einkorn, and used in this dish as bulgur, filling the cabbage dolmade. Mix it with the molasses, crunchy leafs and herbs puree and we have a vegetarian dish that makes us want to come back.

Root vegetables
Celery root, pumpkin, potato, Jerusalem artichoke, quince, and carrot are cooked to perfection in olive oil, following the traditional techinque zeytinyağli. Then served in different textures and at room temperature. A dish that showcases the quality of the product and techincal precision.

Topik, onion, potato, chickpea, and tahini 
A meze inspired in the Armenian emigrants in Istanbul, resulting once again in a unique combination of textures and flavors, where the tahini, the herbs and theirs oils, elevating the dish to another dimension.

What a wonderful trio to start!

We started the meal with a natural orange wine, Chamlija Kehribar Narince 2018,  100% made with Narince grapes. The vibrant color makes us think of an orange juice, the nose takes us to peach, apricot aromas, and a very surprising fresh character. A wine, that despite orange, goes more to a pet nat than a tanin showoff.

Su böreği
Su böreği is usually my choice for a Turkish quick breakfast/lunch. Kind off like a filo dough lasagna, filled with parsley and feta cheese. Here they obviously went a tab ahead, with the combo of shrimp, herb oil, crunchier doughs and “more cooked” doughs. Excellent!

Marinated anchovies 
Anchovies are probably the most emblematic fish from Bosphorus, being its vinegar pickled version a classic along the Mediterranean. In this dish, a special mention to the fig vinegar and the fresh white bean pickle. A flawless combo, full of flavor, with a freshness and acidity that makes us want to keep eating nonstop.

Smoked trout
A kisir salad, inspired on traditon where the bulgur is prepared with fermented turnip and black carrot juice. Accompanied with a delicious smoked trout, pine nut notes, pickles and a soft herb mayo. Another fresh combination, full of textures and flavors where once again the acidity had a fundamental role in the success of the dish.

To pair with this part of the meal, we had the Vinkara Hasandede 2018, a wine with peculiar notes, with highlight to the laurel, quince and lemon, working really well with the cold starters.

Kokoreç
Neolokal’s version of the Turkish classic, prepared with lamb heart, instead of the combination of all the entrails. “Simple” and full of spices, reminiscing the magic of the Turkish cuisine.

Içli Köfte
A pastel made with a bulgur and meat dough with a minced meat and dried fruits filling. Another take on street food, with another layer when combined with the lemon and mint yogurt foam, garlic oil and parsley. One of those dishes we could easily eat everyday and be happy!

Erişte with octopus
Another mark on the Turkish food route, eriste is the Turkish version of the Italian pasta, here prepared with vegetable and fish broth, wrapped in dried tomato pesto, octopus and nuts. A pure comfort dish!

Accompanied by a Pasaeli Sidalan 2017 from the Kaz Daglari regionA wine with a strong personality, produced organically and with respect for the grapes properties, surprising with its herbal and spicy notes, when combined with the dishes.

Papaz Yahni
Inspired in a fish stew brought by the Armenian to Turkey, here taken to another level by the perfectly cooked fish (largemouth bass) cooked with notes of spices and a sauce with notes of olives and a rich fish broth. Delicate and delicious!

Mom’s Meatballs
Here the Anatolian mom’s cuisine is recreated with a kebab where the meatballs are grilled and accompanied by the traditional “piyaz” salad recreated as a sauce. Flavor, succulence and texture that we ate with pleasure with our hands almost at the end of the meal.

Saddle Lamb
An enourmous dish to finish the main courses. Perfectly cooked lamb, full of spice notes from the marinade mix, paired with Mihlama, kind of a polenta, but much richer and flavorsome, and Uveyik, an ancestral grain, treated like a very al dente risotto.

To go with the warm starters we chose a Chamlija Papaskarasi 2016, another stranger to me, but the surprising wine of the night, with great elegance, reminding me of a mature pinot noir, with great expressiveness, very good!

Baklava
Baklava itself is a reason to visit Istanbul, crunchy dough, honey, and lots of technique. Neolokal’s version was still in my memories from our first visit, much lighter, but equally delicate and tasty. Served with a pistachio cream, dry caramelized fruits and almond ice cream. A hard to resist sweet!

Apple cake
Another homage to Anatolian moms, an apple cake full of nuances and technique, with nuts and apple, a carrot cake crisp, walnut ice cream and a “meringue” without egg whites, made from the cooking water of a root named çöven otu . Delicate, with all the elements playing very well together. Pure comfort.

Frigo

It is said that in Turkey it’s usual to eat ice cream bars in theaters, known as “Frigo”, here a bar with smoked black tea notes, raspberries and different textures of popcorn, crunchy and in ice cream form. A happy ending, after 15 moments it really seemed we were at a movie watching a parade of dishes and flavor interpretations that are not usual to us, but here with a rare contemporaneity.

The harmonization of the desserts was made with a Suvla Tatli tatli karasakiz 2017  a delicate dessert wine, intriguing with its flavors and aromas, if the nose identified red fruits, the quince notes had the real spotlight.

The service unrolled with great professionalism in a good mix of techincal rigor and relaxation, as the space and its nocturnal ambiance require. A due note to the wine service that has an essencial role to those like me that few or none know about the Turkish wine universe and its autochthonous grapes.

Final Remarks
The first time we visited Neolokal, the restaurant had just recently open, and even then we were surrendered to Maksut Askar’s cuisine, good bread, beautiful plating, lots of textures and lots of flavor, often using completely unknown ingredients to us. Seeing its evolution through the years and the beautiful path of its career has been an enourmous pleasure, culminating with a certainty by the ending of this 15 course meal, there is a lot that Turkey and the ancient Anatolian cuisine have to give to the contemporary cusine. From rare ingredients, spice combinations and games of texture, we all have a bit to learn and discover from what is made in this cuisine, and that is reason enough to visit the city.

See you soon!

Neolokal
Prices from 50€ – (without wines)
SALT Galata, Bankalar Caddesi Karaköy 34420 – Istanbul
+90 212 244 00 16

Versão Portuguesa

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Yeni Lokanta

Turkish cuisine is much more than just kebab, meze or Lachmacun, as we could witness in our last trip to Istanbul, where the mix of ingredients, spices and textures rendered us speechless. A world of new flavours and almost limitless discoveries, paving the way for new restaurants to appear, as well as new chefs willing to take the Turkish cuisine back to older, more relevant times.

One of those restaurants is Yeni Lokanta – just as its name suggests, “new restaurant” – that opened its doors in 2013 through Civan Er, who was looking to stand out in a world of a more informal and sharing cuisine inspired by tradition, taking a more personal approach on the new Anatolian cuisine.

Cocktails with a nice, simple presentation and well-balanced flavours

As soon as we arrived at the restaurant, we could easily understand why the restaurant was so popular for both locals and visitors. The simple and somewhat rustic decoration, with a dimly lit environment, provides a unique ambience to a place where we could stay and enjoy for hours.

Comfortable, and after having decided on the cocktails, we chose the tasting menu for 2, an interesting new way to make its sharing cuisine idea known.

Manti, Antiochian yoghurt

First, one of the most memorable moments of this trip (so much that we ended up visiting another one of this chef’s restaurants just because of it), Manti, ravioli’s Turkish cousin. In this case, with meat filling, a superb yoghurt sauce, as well as pepper and herb oils. An explosion of flavours and sensations where everything comes together in perfection – I could easily eat this every single week.

Köfte tartare, potatoes, sumac and egg yolk.

Tartare inspired by the traditional Turkish meatballs, nicely plated and well-seasoned. On top, a kind of crispy Scottish egg of potato with liquid egg yolk on the inside.

Also noteworthy is the “sauce”, a type of molasses made with sumac (Turkish spice with an acidic flavour that can easily replace lemon).

The sourdough bread garnish is also pretty great!

Beetroot, sour cherry, almond and kaymak

A vegetarian dish, where the main highlights are the textures, as well as the connection between spice, herb oils and sumac. Everything goes along perfectly with kaymak (a thicker and fatter cream, traditionally used in Turkish deserts). A fine dish, even for those who are not so keen on beetroot, such as me.

Öcce, fresh herb fritters, sour cherry ice cream

Herbs instead of the classic zucchini, creating small crunchy balls with ice cream (actually, it was more of a sauce than a sour cherry ice cream). Despite being fresh and with some flavour nuances, it did not live up to the standards set by the dishes we had previously tasted.

Goat cheese, chards, chilli honey, hazelnuts and tamarind

A terrific dish! A rich and creamy cheese, medium grilled that created an interesting crispy top, chards with a nice texture blending perfectly with dried fruits and the balance between the different flavours of the sauces used.

Shrimp and vine leaves tempura

A traditionally Turkish tempura, with classic vine leaves, wrapped shrimps, fried on a crispy, thin batter. As a garnish, a fresh sauce made of yoghurt, chards and ginger. An interesting, simple and successful dish!

Lamb sausage, walnuts, borlotti bean and cucumber

The way the Turkish cuisine includes lamb on its dishes is second-to-none, and the Lamb Sausage is the proof – an explosion of flavours! A fantastic medium grilled lamb sausage, a flavoured cream of beans and nuts, and the contrasting freshness of the cucumber. Again, a simple yet delicious delicacy, well-balanced altogether from the flavour to the combination of different textures.

Octopus, yoghurt and bottarga

The Turkish octopus was never one of my favourite dishes and the one I tried was not an exception. The quality difference between this one and the Portuguese or Spanish octopus gives me mixed feelings, especially regarding its texture. Nevertheless, the freshness and lightness of the garnish, as well as the new dimension brought by the bottarga’s flavour, ended up being a nice addition to the less exciting protein.

Baked Alaska (Turkish version)

Raspberries, meringue, clotted cream and walnut are the ingredients to a well-balanced Turkish version of Baked Alaska.

Mahlep, salted caramel, hazelnut and pumpkin

Or better put, a Turkish panna cotta with salty caramel, Mahlep (a traditional seed used in Turkish bakeries), hazelnut and pumpkin sauce. Great balance on the sugar, nice texture – without the usual surplus of jelly – and excellent combination of flavours. A nice surprise indeed.

We ended up pairing every dish with cocktails, but you cannot go wrong within a wide variety of Turkish wines with plenty to offer.

Final remarks

Turkish cuisine and the traditions of all Anatolia are constantly changing. In a country where traditions try to remain intact, there are more and more young chefs such as Civan Er who try to write and define the future of this country’s cuisine. Not only by being faithful to its tradition, but also by opening the door to the world, to new techniques and more modern plating ideas.

That is exactly what we found at Yeni. Dishes with strong flavours, some of them unknown, a great blend of textures and a lot of freshness. Everything within a very modern and cosmopolitan setting that captivates both the locals and visitors. Well, as for ourselves, we will certainly come back. Especially because, even after several months after this trip, we just cannot forget the Mantis that jump-started this dinner.

Yeni Lokanta
Prices from 40€ – (without wines)
Tomtom, Kumbaracı Ykş. No:66, 34433 Beyoğlu – İstanbul
+90 212 292 25 50

Versão Portuguesa

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Lai’Tcha

For those passionate about the pleasures of the table, Adeline Grattard doesn’t need presentations, mostly for her restaurant Yam’Tcha and her presence at the famous Netflix show “Chef’s Table”. Briefly speaking, she studied at the famous Parisian school Ferrandi,  and developed her technique alongside Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance,  and there met her husband Chi Wah Chan, a specialist in tea. Together they embarked on an adventure to Hong Kong, Chi Wah Chan’s hometown, where she discovered a whole new world of flavours, techniques and spices, and learned with the most prestigious chefs in the region.

When returning to Paris, they decided to open their own restaurant, Yam’Tcha, where tea and wine fight for the spotlight alongside their signature dishes, and quickly they won their first Michelin star and became one of the most interesting tables in Paris.

Among several projects, Lai’Tcha is the lastest one, inspired in the typical street drink that combines black tea with condensed milk – a not at all Parisian coffee, full of Hong Kong spirit, with Asian inspired dishes, take out, coffee and the obvious teas, carefully chosen by Chi Wah Chan.

The name would be enough to justify the first visit, however, what took us to Les Halles was an even greater reason. Unable to make a reservation and visit the restaurant during a short stay in Paris, and knowing on Tuesdays the couple is at the kitchen of Lai’Tcha, we went on to a unique tasting of the most relaxed combinations by Adeline Grattard.

King Crab Spring Roll and scallops with spices 
The start of this tasting anticipates a lucky dinner… Starting with the spring roll, with a moist and full of flavour crab, and obviously homemade, well-paired with a barbecue-like sauce, Chinese homemade version. The scallops, cooked with spices, vegetables and the freshness of the coriander to contrast. Great!

Eggplant, seafood and rice 
Followed a comfortable dish of eggplant, stewed with seafood, vegetables and Asian seasonings, served over rice. A light dish, but at the same time with several dimensions of flavours and textures. While not being a great fan of eggplant I could’ve easily eaten two or three bowls, and that says everything about the dish…

Polpette, China vs Italy
An adaptation of the famous Italian meatballs, to the Chinese recipe book, quickly transporting us to a dim sum filling, full of flavour and well balanced by the fuyu and mushroom sauce. The picture does not live up to the taste of the dish!

Grapefruit, Passion fruit and Shiso and Mocchi
The freshness any ending asks for, with a simple but well-executed grapefruit salad, with passion fruit and shiso. Nicely prepared Mochi, with a delicate and soft dough, as it should! Beautiful ending!

The service was simple and discrete, in a calm and super serene environment – it seems not a lot of people know about the chef’s dinners at the restaurant… And for us that turned out great!

Final Remarks

It could be a neighbourhood coffee shop or restaurant, but the food, the concept, and of course the people behind it, make Lai’Tcha a unique experience! For the almost exclusive experience offer, for the most exclusive offer of Hong Kong dishes and food, and for the quality of the produce – Adeline Grattard is proud to keep the same suppliers and producers from her gastronomic restaurant – the visit is more than worthy, as it was at the small Boutique Yam’Tcha. The Tuesday menus with the chef’s signature are the cherry on top of the cake, in one of the best experiences of Chinese influence in the city of light. Oh, and it is said to also have one of the best Brunch in town…

To repeat!

Lai’Tcha
Prices from 33€ – (without wines)
7 rue du Jour – Paris
+33 1 40 26 05 05

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La Table D’Eugène

Montmartre is a mandatory neighbourhood to visit when in Paris! Besides the hills, the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, the unique view over the rooftops of Paris, the overflow of artists at Place du Tetre, the historical constructions and of course, the bohemian vibe from the 20s or 30s that is still possible to feel in its narrow and sloping streets.

As in any other touristy place, the best option is to flee from spaces with tons of people, feel the atmosphere of the area and its architecture, wandering around its streets while picturing yourselves in the company of Hemingway, Picasso, Monet and many others.

And there is located the La Table D’Eugène, considered by many the best restaurant in this area. Open since 2008, by the hands of Geoffroy Maillard, it started has a classic bistro, but Geoffroy’s schooling –  Le Nôtre, Plaza Athénée with Éric Briffard, and the Epicure at Hotel Le Bristol with Éric Frechon – took him to fine dining, and in 2015 he won his first Michelin start, that he keeps ’till today.

Arriving at the restaurant and after the long curtain, we are surprised by a small, well decorated, and cosy dining room, without the apparent ceremony of a classic Michelin. Warmly welcomed and quickly accompanied to our table, we soon get a small explanation about the concept and menus.

In good French manners, the initial toast is made with Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils 1er Cru, while the first snacks arrived at the table.

Dashi, foie gras and horseradish ravioli

Corn tartelete with salmon roe    

Vegetable tempura with veggie charcoal and spices

We didn’t come with pre-conceived ideas or expectations, but right here we knew we were in for something good in this lunch. Excellent Dashi and tempura!

Scallop Ceviche, radish, meringue and roe 
“Leche” served in a shaker like a cocktail, a dish full of fresh elements and textures, demonstrating the great technical skills of the team. A light and fresh start, with a noteworthy elegance.

Mackerel Gravlax, beetroot aguachile, dashi and hibiscus  
A dish worked from a colour, and from the combination of the interesting mackerel gravlax with more earthy flavours. Technically perfect, with an excellent combination of flavours, I could only acknowledge the gravlax that ends up losing a bit of protagonism, among so many and good elements, textures and flavours.

By the hand of the charming Catherine, at our glasses arrived a Pouilly-Fumé Les Cris 2018 from Domaine A. Cailbourdin, a pure Sauvignon Blanc, fruity and mineral. Went well the cure of the fish and the earthy notes of the dish.

Celery root, pecorino cheese, and smoked butter
The vegetarian dish of the menu was also the most challenging in terms of flavours and textures. The cooking of the root moulded its intensity while giving it a pleasant texture and a flavour that worked perfectly with the smoked notes of the butter and the greasiness of the cheese foam.

To go with, an Arbois Cuvée d’Automne do Domaine de la Pinte, a classic from Jura, in which the complex notes of the Savagnin, moulded by the Chardonnay, resulted in a complex and fresh wine, with the confit and dried fruits notes working very well with the dish.

 Monkfish, cabbage, kale and beetroot
Looking at the plate it was beautiful, and the tasting was amazing! Perfectly cooked monkfish – very rare – well paired with earthy flavours and spicy notes of the pepper used on the fish. A great, great dish!

Pintades, vegetable puree, leek, peanut and mole
Beautiful, full of textures and flavours elevating the pintades to a great level. Another dish where the high level of cuisine practised here was noticeable. And yes, that sauce you see in the picture forced me to keep eating bread (good bread, by the way).

Well paired with a red Languedoc full of red fruits and good structure, a Corbières Rozeta 2017 by Maxime Magnon.

Goats cheese, olives and whisky caramel – a pre-dessert that was also a challenge to taste by the flavours combined. Great! 

Pear, lemon, white chocolate, ginger, lychees and geranium
The dessert was at the same high level of the previous dishes, with the chef once again working well with textures, in a light and fresh ending, as I love.

Chocolate Sphere
When we thought it was over, at our table arrives a classic of the restaurant. The chocolate sphere, covered in chocolate sauce, chocolate ice cream, tonka bean and dentelle crêpes. A piece of sin to those who can’t resist a chocolate dessert. We can’t, at all!

We ended with a Gaillac DouxLoin de L’Oeil du Domaine Plageoles 2016, with its sweetness and aromas working very well with the pear.

The service was flawless throughout lunch, with the dishes well-explained, without rush or pretentiousness.

Final Remarks 
A neighbourhood restaurant, that is much more than that! In a few years, Geoffroy Maillard transformed his small bistro in what he does best, fine dining! Without palatial decorations, or pompous tables like in many other great restaurants in town. The chef accomplished a nice balance between the informal and the refinement, allied to the haute cuisine. The dishes have technical knowledge above average, as well as a surprising capacity for matching flavours.

It was for sure one of the tables that surprised me the most in our last trips to Paris, I’ll gladly return!

La Table D’Eugène
Prices from 38€ – lunch menu (without wines) 
18 rue Eugène Sue – Paris
+33 1 42 55 61 64

Portuguese Version

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Maison Favart

At Rue de Marivaux, in the historic square next to Opéra Comique and in the heart of the 2nd district of Paris, is located the elegant Boutique Hotel Maison Favart.
Not being my favorite neighborhood in the eternal City of Light, it is for sure an area that has bohemian energy. It is the neighborhood of the Grands Boulevards, effusive, where music, cinema, and gastronomy lovers come together. As you know, gastronomy is of great importance to us, so we couldn’t miss a visit to the Passage des Panoramas, some restaurants, and wine bars in the area.

Very close, it’s possible to find some of the most iconic places in the city, the Ópera Garnier, the Galeries Lafayette, the Le Printemps, and the Vendôme square.

Maison Favart is full of history, the name comes from the famous Favart couple, responsible for the birth of Opéra Comique in the city.

As we arrive at the hotel, even before entering, the sensation is that we are in front of a dollhouse, elegant and a bit magical with its touches of pink and gray. The facade transports us back in time to a history immersed in the beauty of the XVIII century. When entering, the feeling is of surprise, almost like we’re inside a jewelry case with classical music as ambiance. The entire decor is refined, with velvety fabrics and pastels, grays and pinks as colors.

Comfort and a feeling of well-being are key, but the elegance is constant. An authentic XVIII century style revisited.

We are welcomed by a team with warm smiles, while being served coffee by the fire, waiting for our check-in. From my armchair, I can see the Winter garden located right by the reception. Each corner of the hotel is unique and takes us traveling into the memories of the Favart’s.

Maison Favart has 39 bedrooms, of different types, from the Classic to the Deluxe, the Duplex, or Suite, to the La Petite Maison.

We stayed in a Classic bedroom.

The strong colors of pink contrasted with the serenity of the light coming in from the Place Boieldieu. The decoration was contemporary with some inspiration in the XVIII century. Cozy, comfortable, and similarly to the rest of the hotel, as elegant as a dollhouse.

After a few hours enjoying our room, we went exploring the honesty bar of Maison Favart. Right by the reception, in the same room where breakfast is served, we have a bar space, honesty concept! Where the guests can serve themselves and take note of what they spent. An evening well spent, an idleness moment, and of noble behaviour.

Honesty bar

And speaking of this room, the breakfast is served in a typical Parisian style, and the decoration is the perfect picture of what I’ve saying: this hotel is a jewelry case or a dollhouse. See for yourselves and tell me I’m right about the description?

Another service the hotel provides is the well-being area, with a warm pool with a waterfall, and “mirror cloud”, a sauna and a massage room, with an excellent water bed that provides a true refuge of the Parisian bustle in this time of the year.

Here we can also find a small gym to help with the huge consumption of food and wine form our stay!!

Another activity that Maison Favart promotes is viticulture – the Domaine de la Soucherie  – that can welcome guests for a stay at its Maison des Amis, and its four elegantly decorated rooms, or just for a visit to the property and a wine tasting, with an astonishing view over the valley, just 2h30 away from Paris.

Maison Favart is a small and magical place in the center of Paris. A boutique hotel that takes us back to childhood and that safe space.

A house with the glamour of another Era, where smiles and reminders from other centuries fill our souls!


Maison Favart
Bedrooms from 270€
5, rue de Marivaux – Paris
+33 1 42 97 59 83
contact@lamaisonfavart.com

Portuguese Version

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Zuma Dubai

Trendy, trendy, trendy! Many are the restaurants where “to see and be seen” are the motto, few or none are able to keep the high standards of Zuma – there are more than 10 restaurants across the world, thousands of clients, thousands of dishes and an always high standard.

Zuma Dubai is the standard-bearer of the group, founded in 2002 by Reiner Becker and Arjun Waney, so we couldn’t miss a visit on our first trip to Dubai. An accomplishment no one can take away from Zuma is being the most celebrated restaurant in Dubai, and that’s huge! Even more in a city where everything happens and new high-quality restaurants open all the time.

Getting a table is not easy, but a good concierge is the half away through and they were able to fit us on the first lunch hour! We arrived 5min before the opening and could see at a distance the entire team’s briefing, a mix of demand with a motivation and energy session, quickly each element went to their position and we were quickly accompanied to our table.

The space is divided into different floors and lives of natural light and a cosmopolitan decoration where comfort is king and long balconies, where we can follow their work, both at the robata and the sushi bar.

Comfortably seated and flawlessly served, we started by the cocktails as mandatory, being the bar one of the strengths of the restaurant.

Rikka tonic

 Hamachi usuzukuri, ponzu and truffle oil 
The most famous dish at Zuma, and the most copied one – thin slices of Hamachi covered with a ponzu sauce, prepared with truffle oil. Opposite from what we usually taste in the “copies” the false aroma of the oil is not overpowering, letting the fish shine and the freshness of ponzu gives it a bit more complexity.

Scallops, Umeboshi and mentaiko
Hokkaido scallops, prepared on the Robata, served on point with a bit of umeboshi and mentaiko roe. Tasty and delicate!

Chicken Karaage
Boneless chicken tights, breaded and fried with a slightly spicy sauce. A nice snack, from the texture to the succulence and the flavor. Addictive!


Geshi smash

Sashimi
Different fish slices, with highlight to the presentation and the quality of the tuna. Nicely sliced fish, but not surprising.

Nigiri premium
A selection of the best nigiri created at the restaurant, with highlight to the tuna toro with sea urchin, the prawn with summer truffle, the eel, and of course, the fresh wasabi, and real, that for those who never tasted it before makes all the difference! Perfectly cooked rice and nicely sliced fish.

More cocktails – I didn’t even want them! 

Passionfruit souffle, Sesame ice cream 
Masterfully prepared souffle, with a hot and creamy filling, contrasting really well with the temperature and taste of the ice cream. A delicate and delicious ending!

The service was perfect, from the recommendations to the mise en scène, everything went by quickly and with a contagious good mood, especially if you take into account the number of guests they serve daily.

Final Remarks
Zuma is, for more than 10 years now, the busiest restaurant in Dubai, becoming almost like a ritual for the expacts that go there. Being trendy and hype is something relatively easy to accomplish these days, you need good taste and money to invest, the hard part is getting all this with the resource to good quality products, above-average consistency, both in the service and the food.

It’s far from being unforgettable, or a unique experience for experienced guests, especially taking the prices into account, however, the entire experience is high level and it’s a mandatory visit for those going to Dubai.

Zuma Dubai
Prices from 50€ – Lunch Menu (without wines)
Dubai Mall Fashion Avenue Ground Floor nº203
+971 4 32 00 477

Portuguese Version

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Leonardo

Seeing a restaurant inside a museum is something we are all used to, but if, suddenly, the idea was to put a museum inside a restaurant? So thought the minds behind the Egyptian group Stella di Mare, when deciding the theme for their first restaurant in Dubai.

And the theme for the museum? Who other than Leonardo da Vinci, as the name states right away, Leonardo!

Located in the incredible Dubai Marina, with direct entrance from the street, we are just a short elevator trip from the grand dining room, of nicely worked details, warm and romantic ambiance and full of different da Vincci works.

Warmly welcomed, with several Italians in the team. The trip to the table is not easy, because we can’t take our eyes away from all the replicas of the Renaissance master. You know about our love for the Renaissance, right?

 Comfortably seated, everything is pristine, from the chairs to the towel, glasses and the funny position of the napkins. In the meantime, a great variety of bread quickly arrives at the table.

Basket with different slices of bread, with highlight to the great Foccacia and the amuse bouche – a delicious lamb Agnolotti with mushroom sauce

Salmon, tuna sauce and coriander powder 
A version of the Vitello Tonnato where the meat is replaced by a mi-cuit of cold salmon – I don’t know if that was the intention, but in my opinion, warm would be more interesting! Nice combo with the sauce and the salty notes of the capers.

Zucchini sformatino, fresh tomato soup
A good version of a classic, making me travel for a moment to the hands of Fabio Picci, the Florentine master at Cibrèo. Excellent texture and a simple and delicate flavor!

Cacio e Pepe
One of my favorite Roman classics, Cacio & Pepe, that lives of the mix of cheese and pepper, as the name indicates. In this version, accompanied by two crunchy bacon slices. Good spaghettoni, perfectly cooked, while the flavor was somewhat amiss, lacking more pepper and a creamier sauce with the pasta.

Hare Tortelli, cannellini bean cream and rosemary sauce 
Super high level, with the pasta on point and the right amount of filling to the portion of pasta. Nicely connected with the cream and the aromatic sauce. A beautiful dish!

Duck Magret, sprouts, mango, and grapefruit sauce
Nicely pink duck, as it should, tender and tasty, and weirdly going very well with the mango sauce, mostly because of the less sweet link of the grapefruit with the bitterness of the sprouts. A good dish.

Coffee Slush, chocolate mousse, vanilla cream, and crunchy rice and Hazelnut Semifreddo with vanilla cream 
Positive notes to the desserts as well, with highlight to the nice combination of textures and flavors of the coffee and chocolate dessert, as well as the dried fruit and seeds crisp, accompanying the well-accomplished semifreddo.

On the glass, we opted for Italian wines, namely the white Sicilian Ca’di Ponti Catarratto, a dry white of a less known caste, resulting in a simple wine with a good aromatic side, and a red, the Piemonte Barbera 2018 Araldica, an easy wine, unpretentiousan everyday Piemonte.

The service went along with the greatest of the professionalisms, technically correct and with a good environment.

Final Remarks
In a city with a bit of everything, another Italian restaurant is not immediately the recipe for success, so here was created a unique room, with a romantic atmosphere, and where the work of a great name of our history is displayed.

The room and the quality of the service are the great highlights of this restaurant, and the cuisine complements the entire environment and scenario created.

 

Leonardo Dubai
Prices from 50€ (without wines)
Stella Di Mare Hotels & Resorts
Al Mattla’ee Street – Dubai
leonardo.dubai@stelladimare.com

Versão Portuguesa 

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Park Hyatt Dubai

In my mind, Dubai was like a science fiction movie, where I would feel a part of a world from 2100! I thought of it as a bustling, chaotic and crazy city, as well as ultra-expensive and without interest for a possible trip!

Oh, I was so wrong!!! Not about everything, it is for sure a science-fiction scenario!

Arriving in Dubai, coming from the calm and paradise-like Abu Dhabi creates an impact that is as exciting, as it is weird! Impossible to calculate the height of the gray skyscrapers! Dubai is around an hour away from Abu Dhabi by taxi, and the taxis are very affordable, even on longer trips.

As soon as we arrived in Dubai we immediately realize the city is constantly mutating! I believe when I return there will be a few more skyscrapers!

We booked this trip in order to get some rest, 2019 was being a very chaotic year and all I needed was to calm down a bit, and I managed that (for me, calming down is a true miracle!) in Abu Dhabi, but arriving in crazy Dubai I didn’t think that would continue! And again… I was completely wrong! And the big responsible for that was Park Hyatt Dubai, a true oasis in the center of this bustling city.

I can start by telling you about our first day with our cicerone, our long time friend, Nelson Catanho, who lives in Dubai for a long time now, and who took us to brunch. It seems that Fridays in Dubai are like our Sundays, for Brunch day and dolce far niente!

And if you think there’s no alcohol in Dubai…Well… You’re wrong! You can drink, and a lot!!! But let’s leave those stories and on to what matters! Our “little” refuge – Park Hyatt Dubai!

First Impression
We arrived at the hotel already at night, and it was superimposing even without a lot of light.

Located in the complex of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Park Hyatt Dubai is the true meaning of a luxury escape in the most idyllic location. We are near the bustle of the city, but almost hidden in a different world, where serenity reigns1

Arriving at the lobby was like entering a One thousand and one night’s movie, with a mostly Arabic decoration and rich details.

The check-in was quick, and we were accompanied right away to our bedroom, and in a car! As the hotel is very big, and in order for the guest to rest, we are taken by car to our room, and what a room!!!

Bedrooms
The hotel has 223 bedrooms and 34 suites, all of them with an amazing view for the Dubai Creek.

Our room, with a small garden and direct access to the Marina, became the perfect refuge in the morning, with nature sounds as background.

Huge, with the perfect decoration, combining Arabic details with a modern style, the bathroom was the perfect place for me. A bathtub in the center, surrounded by mirrors making the perfect barrier with the rest of the room, a roomy shower and a closet next to the mirrors.

The bedroom was perfectly set for a calm wake up, with the bed facing the garden and the Marina.

The subtle orange, brown and beige tones led us to relaxation.

Brasserie du Park

Restaurants
Quality gastronomy, elegant decoration, and amazing views are all features of the bars and restaurants of Park Hyatt Dubai. Here we can find western, Thai and French gastronomy. Let’s start with the Brasserie du Park – with a touch of French cuisine, here we delighted ourselves every day with an amazing breakfast.

At Noépe, we are graced with the best views over the elegant marina and enjoy a summer vibe, easily taking us to Ibiza or Mykonos, where the white and blue make part of the decoration and where we can relax protected from the bustle of the city.

Noépe

Here we had a nice dinner and tasted a series of snacks highlighting the seafood.

Seafood dish at Noépe

The highlight of the dinner goes to the seafood dish, full of clams mussels, shrimp, oysters, and lobster. Then a nice combo of snacks, like tuna ceviche, shrimp. fried squid and to finish a nice slow roasted rib.

My mandatory dose of sugar!

One of the places I loved the most was the Seventyseventy!

A refined space, inspired by the elegant design of the early ’70s.

Seventyseventy

The fashion, design and position make of this space a place for clients looking for sophistication.

With signature cocktails, to fall in love with before dinner, or in the end of the night with music, marking our vacations with a unique moment.

Another space is The Thai Kitchen, that uses traditional ingredients directly imported from Thailand. We didn’t get the chance to visit.

The Shisha Lounge was one of my favorite spaces for the warm nights we had there. A lounge where comfort is the main concern, with sofas, pillows, candles, a coffee, and shisha Arab cuisine, and a view to the picturesque marina and Dubai Creek.

One of the places we made the most of was the pool and the Pool Bar, located in the calm environment of the pool.

Elegant decoration with Arab details, the scenario was set to end our days in total relaxation!

For those staying for long periods at the hotel and wishes to have even more variety in terms of food, there are more options around the extense complex of the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club – the Casa de Tapas, the Boardwalk, the Cielo Sky Lounge, and the QD’s Bar & Grill.

The Lagoon
Services

I’m not gonna elongate about the services of any five-star hotel, mainly being a Hyatt group hotel. Those following the blog already know the luxury to which the Hyatt group has gotten us used to.

Here at Park Hyatt Dubai we really have to mention a space – The Lagoon! An authentic oasis in the heart of the hotel. Located in the margins of the Dubai Creek, this majestic lagoon with an infinity pool effect also includes a beautiful private beach.

A refuge of white sand and warm water, where we can almost feel the bustle of the frantic Dubai from afar. The private spots along the lagoon are the perfect place for a memorable sunset.

It was for sure my spot this vacation!

The pool surrounded by the garden the Amara Spa are also of hightlight, and delights the youngest and the families, but he lagoon is easily the favorite spot for couples, as it is more intimate and calm.

Park Hyatt Dubai is also the perfect place for golf lovers, being inserted in a golf complex.

Service
The Hotel has what I call a perfect balance in terms of service. Feeling all the privacy in the world, but whenever you need something there’s someone with you right away.

One of my favorite spots 

For example, spending the day at the lagoon and suddently thinking: “this heat deserved something refreshing12, you open your eyes and there’s staff handing out ice cream. That is the dynamic of the hotel. Always caring for the needs of its guests, without invading their privacy!

Imagine yourselves in a city that doesn’t seem to sleep and a city that enters our mind like it’s going to own us… that city is Dubai!

But imagine you can be in such a place and be protected in a paradise like place – that place is Park Hyatt Dubai!

Park Hyatt Dubai
Bedrooms from 170€
PO Box 2822, Dubai – United Arab Emirates
+971 4 602 1234
dubai.park@hyatt.com

Versão Portuguesa

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