It was in the former palace of the Campos Navarro family, built in 1861 that after several different lives, the luxurious Hotel Torel Palace Porto (see) was born, and with it, the Blind restaurant. If the hotel pays homage to Portuguese literature and its authors, the restaurant, as its name implies, takes us back to José Saramago and the work “Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira”.

The restless and creative spirit behind the project is Vítor Matos, the starred chef who accumulates yet another consulting project here, but where he always gets his hands dirty (as happened on the night of our visit). We have consistently recognized a solid artistic streak in the chef, from painting to internationally famous pottery, made in partnership with Vista Alegre, passing through the always meticulously executed plating, even before instagram trends.

Blind’s proposal is to take us on a journey of senses, emotions, experiences, and inspirations that are part of the chef’s life, from his childhood to his dreams, also passing through chefs and creative details that have marked him at some point. All of this comes together in an intimate, dark, and simultaneously seductive space designed by Isabel Sá Nogueira – whose only fault is that the rose hanging over the table is not a natural flower and, therefore, cannot accompany the most romantic couples at the end of the meal as an emotional memory.

But let’s leave my romantic vein and move on to what brings us here, the Blind Emotions Menu tasting (the restaurant only works with a tasting menu that can be 10 or 12 moments long). At the table, we are quickly treated to a flute of Sidónio Sousa Bruto, bottled exclusively for Torel hotels, followed by two signature cocktails, Touch – vodka, lemon, violet, and egg white, and Sound – gin, melon, ginger beer, and egg white.

Amuse-bouches – salmon tramezzino, cornetto, foie gras ducks and expresso martini

We started the meal off with a delicious cured salmon tramezzino, a miniature version of a delicate sandwich of salmon, herbs, and salmon roe, a mini cornetto that takes us back to the classic strawberry cornetto of a lifetime, but which here it is prepared with cheese from the islands, tomatoes and thin, crispy dough, rubber ducks that here weren’t used to play with in the bath but to soak in the greasiness and richness of the foie gras, which, incidentally, combined very well with the last moment, an espresso martini shot.À Flor da Pele – Yellowtail, gazpacho, tomato, coriander, cucumber and olive
We started immediately with a dish with the chef’s signature being very evident, from the plating to the number of elements. Marinated and lightly seared lily, different textures of cucumber, tomato, explosive olives, and coriander. A dish full of elegance and freshness, ideal for the beginning of the tasting.

This was followed by the “Blindfolded Eyes” moment, where we were invited to eat blindfolded and to guess the elements that make up the dish solely through its flavor. Raw Algarve prawn (the most straightforward flavor), citrus gel, and an enveloping warm leek foam contrasted nicely with the richness of the yolk cream (which I didn’t identify) and the fennel.

It is a moment that is not what I look for in fine dining these days, but I understand its use, even more so for anyone being introduced to the concept. Judging by the room’s glam faces, I wonder if I’m right!

In the glass is a Lacrau Moscatel Galego 2022, which despite being dry, demonstrates the sweet and tropical characteristics of the variety.

Bread and butter

At a good pace, we continue with the bread that increasingly gains space in the middle of the menus, this time with “Candlelight” consisting of an excellent selection of sourdough bread from the bakery Bom Miolo in Póvoa de Varzim, served with a candle butter flavored with truffle oil.

Falling Leaves – Pumpkin Raviolis, Boletus, pumpkin seeds, hazelnut, and acorn
A comfort dish with good technical nuances and full of flavor and textures that turned out to be one of the best of the night. Earthy, sweet, rich, and balanced flavors that conquered with every spoonful that we took.

Harmonizing was a Procura in the 2018 amphora by Susana Esteban, whose good acidity and minerality contrasted nicely with the dish.

Sea air – Steamed sea bass, bivalves, seaweed and plankton consommé and fish broth
The dish is one of those moments that represent a dip in the sea, the habitat, or the ocean. And that’s exactly what we received on the plate, a sea bomb with barnacles, razor clams, and cockles that, combined with a good plankton broth, give us a faultless feeling of the sea. In addition, we were invited to get into the Fat Duck spirit in 2007, when we put some headphones in our ears in which the only sound emitted was that of the sea. An immersion in the flavor and the surroundings of the sea resulted in a great dish that, personally, I preferred only the fish at a slightly lower point (still better than most of what we find around).

For this moment, they kept the wine of the night, a Bairrada made from old vines, a blend of Maria Gomes and Bical that Vítor Matos bottled with his label, Natura Calcariu 2016 with 60 months of aging in used fuder from Mosel. A wine made at Niepoort and selected in good time by the chef. A great white that represents well the potential of Portuguese whites when worked differently.

Horta Marítima – Scarlet shrimp, carrots, ginger, fennel, lemongrass, and caviar
As in any restaurant with aspirations to stardom in Portugal, the scarlet shrimp could not be missing (not that I care at all… but they could even start betting on the enlisted one I prefer). The rich flavor of the shrimp (with impeccable cooking) contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the carrot, the salinity of the caviar, and the freshness of the fennel and other elements. Very good!

It accompanied a 2020 Quinta da Vacaria Reserve White, a “classic” profile of the Douro with the region’s typical grape varieties, identical to the others that the winemaker makes in the region. A wine that doesn’t fill my measurements but that fulfilled its mission of harmonizing. But let’s say it’s not easy to serve a “typical” white after the previous wine.

Meat on Ashes – Matured Ribeye, Roasted Celery, Black Garlic, Roasted Pepper, Brussel Sprouts, Truffle, and Meat Sauce
In tastings, there are always dishes that impress us less, and here was the case with this ribeye – good meat, good roasted celery puree, and a good sauce, served in small quantities so that we can combine all the elements of the dish with it. The fact that the truffle no longer exhibits all its pomp and fragrance also contributed to the lesser interest of the dish.

When it was time for a red, a Quinta da Vacaria red 2020 was drunk, with an identical profile to its white brother. It was complex and extracted with the touriga nacional standing out, accompanied by the brand of wood.

Da Estrela – Pumpkin compote, cream cheese ice cream, nougat and meringue
The classic combination of curd cheese and pumpkin jam replaced the moment of cheeses or a lighter and fresher pre-dessert. Comfort, flavor, and textures were well achieved in an excellent first dessert.

My Childhood – Cotton candy, caramels, macaron
The QR code takes us to the story of the chef and the dessert that arrives at the table to the rhythm of the cowbell, so characteristic of dairy cows in the transalpine fields. A combination of sweets and memories I easily recall – my childhood in a Trás-os-Montes village often resulted in waiting for the sweets that emigrant uncles presented us with. As for the dessert, where the sweetest flavors and loose elements rested on vanilla mousse, mascarpone, and tropical fruit notes. I preferred these different individual details with plenty of distinct sweet notes separately rather than as a whole.

I Have a DreamMatcha truffle, yuzu tartlet, and wasabi financier
With the petit fours, the chef tells us that he dreams of taking a trip to Japan (a dream we share, by the way!), a good matcha truffle served in the bonsai, a delicate and fresh yuzu tartlet, and a financier of wasabi (in this case of the folder and not the root). Simple, enjoyable, and effective!

Accompanying the desserts was a Tawny Quinta da Vacaria, 20 Years Old, much more interesting than its table counterparts to do justice to the history of the Quinta. Its notes of caramel, coffee, spices, and dried fruits work in full with the sweets served.

A positive note for the service, entirely made of women, executed with technique and precision combined with an exceptionally relaxed conversation, ideal for a space where there is so much interaction between the room and the diner. The head chef multiplies well between various functions, so adding a well-prepared sommelier would be the cherry on top.

The exterior area of the restaurant

Final Remarks
I have been following the work of Vítor Matos for a long time, if in the past, I recognized him as having more technical value than flavor, but that changed several years ago with a dish of pigeon served at Antiqvvm, cleaner of adjacent elements, with perfect cooking and a taste brushing against perfection. These days it’s easy to try his cuisine ( he signs several consultancies, from fine dining to the most traditional cuisine) but not so much what comes out of his hands. So it’s always nice to see him present his creations in a chef’s jacket. As for Blind, its claim to the much-desired star is clear – if we knew a checklist on “what to do” or “what not to do”, it would undoubtedly have a large number of marks at the time of the evaluation, but I wouldn’t say that its moment has already. A restaurant with no big ups and downs, no major mistakes, and that seems perfect for those looking to introduce themselves to the world of fine dining, with fun moments of interaction and challenge that help to “break the ice” that we can often feel in this kind of dining. The tasting menu of 10 or 12 moments varies between 50 of the chef’s creations, depending on the seasonality of the products, which is why we promise to accompany you on other trips.

Finally, just one more note about the Natura Calcariu 2016: it is a tremendous Portuguese white, so if you’re lucky enough to come across it, be sure to try it. You will be delighted!

Prices from 100€ (without wines)
Rua de Entreparedes 42 – Porto

Photos: Flavors & Senses
Text: João Oliveira
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