Essential is the name and apparently concept of this small restaurant at 176 Rua da Rosa in Bairro Alto. With a minimalist decoration, or if we want to keep the buzzword, reduced to the essentials – where light woods and neutral tones give a Nordic touch to a space that promises to follow anything but trends from northern Europe.

But let’s do a little briefing before sitting at the table: André Lança Cordeiro is the craftsman behind this project, a chef who had passed through France before settling in a palace in Lisbon and making his name known in a small project called “Local”. Here, on his own, André decided to reduce his cuisine to the adjective that gives the restaurant its name – great cooking and good products.

A reduction that is not made of minimalism or modernism but rather for bringing French cuisine to Lisbon, focusing on the product, refined in technique and flavor. A cuisine to which many have declared a death sentence but which is slowly gaining support and recognition from those who value the craftsmanship that goes into each dish.sourdough bread, butter and pork fat whipped with rosemary

In this French theater opened to diners, we can find André and, among others, Leonor Sobrinho (also known for being his right and left arm) and Daniel Silva, who went from being a passionate gastronome to maître d‘ and sommelier.

But let’s go to the table where we are received with hot bread, butter, and less likely pork fat whipped with rosemary, all very well drained with a Briords Vieilles Vignes Sur Lies 2020 from Muscadet, which demonstrates that the wine list is anything but commercial or boring.

Sea urchin, caviar lime and scarlet prawn tartare
To start the tasting with a dip in the sea, it could be a tribute to Rafa Zafra’s sea urchin in Estimar, but the choice of prawns, the acidity of the caviar lime, and the impeccable sauce take the dish to another level, and of course, with a big french accent. For me, they could have brought 4 or 5 of these.

Foie gras, quince and brioche puff
Speaking of French cuisine would not be possible without mentioning foie gras. Here it’s served in a delicate and well-executed torchon mi cuit, which is like saying that the liver has been marinated and lightly cooked until it reaches a point that makes it perfect for spreading. Next to it are well-crafted quinces (they are not just used for marmalade, as is, unfortunately, the hallmark of our more traditional cuisine) and a puffed brioche that, despite its good flavor, requires even more technical refinement.

Duck and orange pâté en croûte, foie gras, pistachio, carrot and pear
Pâté en croûte is synonymous with French savoir vivre, rare in Portugal, and exceptionally well executed! Over the last few years, it has been one of the main focuses of André Tecla Cordeiro’s work and one of the dishes that made him famous during the pandemic as a takeaway. Exquisite filling, full of flavor, freshness, and sweetness to taste, well accompanied by carrot purée, pear confit, and pickles. To my personal taste, only the sides of the dough deserved a little more cooking for a better contrast between the dough and the filling.

In the glass, these two kitchen icons were accompanied by the Domaine de Bellivière Vieilles Eparses by Eric Nicolas in the Loir. A 100% Chenin whose minerality and citrus notes combined with some honey made a good pairing with the dishes.

Sole, watercress, celery, truffle, roasted Jerusalem artichoke and champagne sauce with herring roe
We are still in a classic kitchen but as on point as any other, except for taking a little more work than putting the fish in the sous vide at the right temperature. The fish is on point, with all the elements marrying beautifully in the mouth, with notes of freshness and earthy linking very well with the salinity of the sauce. If only there was caviar, we could have eaten at any of the star restaurants in Paris (the price would have been different…).

As there is no French cuisine without champagne, we drank Domaine Piollot Come das Tallants, a brut nature 100% pinot noir that served its purpose well and would be even better at the end with a cheese plate given its aroma and robustness.

Sirloin pithivier, foie gras, caramelized celery and black garlic purée, crispy potato mille-feuille
Another of the hallmarks of André Tecla Cordeiro’s kitchen has been his work with salted puff pastry, inspired by masters such as Bruno Verjus, Yohan Lastre, or Karen Torosyan; his proposals and fillings have been many. Here we tasted a complex sirloin steak with farce, foie, vegetables, and cabbage, all cooked to perfection with maximum precision – it must be a tremendous relief to put the knife in the dough and realize that everything came together just right. Accompanying the pithivier, everything at the highest level, from the jus to the puree and, of course, the blessed black truffle that André appreciates as much as I do.

Harmonizing was a less irreverent Quinta do Monte d’oiro Reserva 2013, a syrah with a hint of viognier, full of ripe fruit but without being boring, with hints of pepper giving it some grace. In the mouth, it showed polished tannins and wood very well integrated. It wasn’t something I expected to find after the other wines, but it didn’t compromise!

Hazelnut and truffle soufflé
Those following André’s work on social media will most likely come across him through the sinful photos of French pastries he rehearses. Soufllé is always a complex exercise that most pastry chefs shy away from. Still, in good time, André did not – delicate, rich, flavorful, and elevated to the ultimate level of epicureanism with the freshly shaved truffle. My winter could be full of this…

Vanilla mille-feuille, salted caramel
Considered by everyone who tastes it as the best in Lisbon, ever since I saw it online for the first time, it aroused great curiosity in me, firstly because it actually has an aspect of rare perfection and secondly because it reminded me of one of the best mille-feuilles I’ve ever seen. I had the opportunity to taste the one at Relais Louis XII by chef Manuel Martinez at the time with two Michelin stars in Paris; what a surprise when one day I realized in an interview that André passed by the restaurant’s pastry shop during his visit to the Parisian capital. As for dessert, there are not many adjectives to add; everyone should try it.

To end an already long meal and accompany the sweets in good shape, Daniel Silva’s choice was for one of my favorite producers from Jerez, a Cream Tradicion 20 years old from Bodegas Tradicion. This wine is the result of the combination of Pedro Ximénez with the incredible Oloroso from Palomino Fino, which becomes a very particular wine that is hard not to like.

There’s nothing to say about the service; it’s like being at the cooks’ house with a friend who knows about wines pouring us the glass, again the essentials, therefore!

Final Remarks
With a Nordic look and French matrix, the essential thing is a breath of fresh air – it may seem strange, I know! How can a classic French cuisine restaurant be something refreshing and innovative, you may be asking? But the answer is simple: how many of you, in an era of innovations, minimalism, and creations that are often entirely out of place, had already tasted a pithivier at its best? A pâté en croûte? a poulard en vessie or even a paris-brest?

Taking classics that shaped the history of cooking, reducing them to the focus of flavor, and handling them with an enviable technical rigor is something difficult to find and only accessible to those who are willing to suffer many hours in the kitchen and to those who can afford (there is always a doubt as to whether it will be a luxury or controlled ego) to fail, fail again and repeat. In an era shaped by aesthetic and plating influences, André Tecla Cordeiro let himself be influenced by the complexity and way of doing things, which makes his cuisine so refreshing. If the kitchen also has mistakes? He has! But the perseverance experienced in this kitchen tells us that these are passing errors by someone who lives more as an artisan than a chef. In short, it boils down to the essentials here – good food, and that’s the only option on the menu!

Prices from 50€ – (without wines)
Rua da Rosa – 176, 1200-390 Lisboa
+351 211 573 713

Portuguese Version

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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