Largo do Paço*

Casa da Calçada  - 25

Located in the emblematic Casa da Calçada, once the Palace of Conde de Redondo, nowadays a Charm Hotel (see), Largo do Paço is like a gastronomical miracle in the inland Portugal. For several years there were three Portuguese Chefs who achieved their Michelin Star here, José Cordeiro, Ricardo Costa and Vítor Matos, who keeps it currently.

IMG_1490Vítor Matos was born in Switzerland and there he became a Chef based in the French School. In Portugal he was always going through hotel restaurants, making is career calmly and thoughtfully, until in 2010 he became the head chef of Largo do Paço’s kitchen.

The restaurant breaths the same image of the hotel, with a classic decoration, wide tables and well-spaced, interesting chairs (but not very comfortable) and an excellent view over the river.

largodopaço - 15

Already installed and ready to start the feast, we are received with a glass of sparkling wine Portal da Calçada Bruto, made with the Azal castes, trajada and laurel from the vineyards surrounding the Casa da Calçada property; A wine of thin bubble, citric and with some creaminess and delicacy in the mouth.

Following, two butters, one of caviar and another of seaweed, served at the right temperature, with soft flavors but very well accomplished. To go with, a varied selection of breads like focaccia, nuts, garlic, seeds and a traditional bread. Good, but without a highlight.

largodopaço - 13Then was the time for the chef’s greetings, which in the case of Vítor Matos are divided in 3 moments and in endless appetizers. For the first moment, Veal tartar, squid skin, caviar, beetroot and rice paper, pork belly with mango chutney and tortilha, Air Baguettes with Bísaro pig prosciutto, to the good Spanish style celebrated by Albert Adrià. There were also Alheira truffles and some fake beetroots of foie gras, which reminds us of the famous tangerine of Heston Blumenthal.

Highlight for the beetroot Foie, because of the flavor, texture, and flavor combination and to the elegant veal tartar of which I wouldn’t mind a bigger portion.

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For the second moment we left the earthly flavors to “sink” in the bottom of the ocean, not only because of the dried ice and seaweed fog that flavored the room – in a clear appeal to all our senses – but mostly because of its components, Coastal Prawn, lobster, Muscat, oyster sauce, yuzu, coriander cream and a seaweed tempura with saffron mousse. Highlight to the freshness of the prawn appetizer, a big spoon of ocean flavor well balanced by the Muscat and the freshness and texture of the coriander cream; also a space in the spotlight to the crunchiness of the tempura.

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For the third and last moment, before initiating the “Largo do Paço” menu, another beautiful and careful presentation with salmon ceviche cone, guacamole and trout roe. An excellent ending, full of freshness and flavor in a good game of textures that would reveal into one of Vítor Matos features along the meal.

largodopaço - 10Foie Gras, beetroot, rhubarb, kumquat, citronella and celery
Initiating with the Foie Gras, the Chef presented it in three textures, an excellent tureen, a mousse and a sphere similar to the appetizers one. I was particularly pleased with the textures and flavors he achieved in the 3 elements of Foie, as well as with the combination of beetroot and pinions (in the case of the mousse). Highlight also to the freshness of the elements like the celery or the green apple and citronella ice cream that cut very well into the fat of the foie, making a lighter dish.

largodopaço - 9Sardine, sardine roe, tomato, onion, coriander, gaspacho and olive
Another dish divided in 2 moments, better, in two ways of presenting the sardine. The first with the same (and tasty) coriander cream from the appetizers, gazpacho and sardine roe. The second a tomato slush with sardine tartar, cucumber and olive. Both of them flawless in texture and flavor, although the impact of the slush is too cold, hiding some flavors that later opened up and revealed. A super fresh and appealing dish for this time of the year. Very good.

Accompanying all these dishes was a wine of the house, the White brand starter made with basis, mostly, in Azal, and that was light and fresh.

largodopaço - 8Salmon, pork head, smoked eel, chard, alvarinho, safflower and trout roe
Mi-cuit style salmon, with excellent flavor and delicate texture; good matching of the chard giving an earthly touch to the dish and the light smoky flavor of the eel and the pork head, all very well connected by the alvarinho emulsion and safflower from the Azores. An excellent dish!

largodopaço - 7Red Mullet, pink prawn, seaweed, sea urchin, saffron gnocchi
A true combination of sea flavors, one of my favorite fishes, the mullet, combined with a flawlessly cooked prawn, a great sauce, made of saffron and mullet liver; A combination just tainted by the dense texture of the gnocchi.

These two dishes were harmonized with Quinta da Calçada Exuberant 2012, an elegant wine, with good minerality and a citric touch that went well with the fish dishes.

 largodopaço - 6First time of the meat dish (tartar) 

largodopaço - 5“Vitelão”
1st Moment grain mustard, quail egg, Mexican sauce, garlic bread, pickles
With the meat dish being served in two times, it was also served at two different temperatures. First the tartar, technically very well prepared, beautiful and light, with the acidity of the pickle and the cucumber working very well with the greasiness of the egg and the sweeter and spicier elements of the sauce. Very good.

2nd Moment – parsnip, Sage, chanterelles (our dish seemed to bring trumpets of death?), Serra cheese, marrow, dark garlic and caramelized onion
Flavorful and tender meat, cooked on point. Good raviolis with Serra cheese in the right portions, without overlapping flavors. I also liked the parsnip in two textures and all the earthly connection Vítor Matos achieves with this dish, apart from the type of mushroom. The marrow was the cherry on top of the cake, giving the dish another dimension.

Harmonizing with this dish we had a Douro red, Restrito Grande Escolha 2011, a well accomplished wine, and like the apanage of the year, dominated by Touriga Nacional, but without its own features overcoming the wine.

largodopaço - 4Raspberry, Lychee, Mascarpone, strawberry, rhubarb, Kaffir Lime
A pre dessert, or first dessert, a dish that fills my taste concerning sweets – freshness, fruit, elegance and just enough sweetness. Once again, a good game of textures, from the gelatin, to the moist cake, to the meringue crunchiness, all worked well in perfect harmony. Top!

largodopaço - 3Eggplant, elderberry, pumpkin, aloe vera, pinions, Azeitão chesse and Vanilla
A dessert that also filled my requirements of lightness and freshness to finish a long meal. Intelligent the use of the eggplant, highlighting its texture and natural sweetness, in a very good contrast with the remaining elements, where the light Azeitão cheese mousse stands out for its originality, as well as the Vanilla ice cream.

The desserts were accompanyed by a Late Harvest – Outono de Santar 2011 based on the famous Encruzado do Dão. A wine with a beautiful straw tone and notes of dried fruits and some peach. A fresh ending!

The wine list presents all the main national references, kept in a beautiful and more contemporary cellar we ended up visiting with the Chef. The harmonization suggested worked, in general, in all the dishes although without a wow factor (it was still to come!) or an unmissable combination.

The Service was calm and paused, with the right timings, not being invasive and showing a good knowledge of the dishes.

largodopaço - 2Mignardises

In the meantime we were invited to visit the kitchen, while we had a small talk with the Chef and tasted his delicate mignardises, with highlight to the good chocolate and the financier; in this case I would only improve the tea selection available.

Some talk pulls a conversation, among dishes, cuisines and wines, we ended up in the restaurant’s cellar tasting the Douro Muscat that Vítor Matos (a great oenophile) made in partnership with Dalva, a Colheita 2013.

largodopaço - 1A wine carefully chosen by Vítor Matos among the casks stored by Dalva, with a label of his own making (the Chef is also an interesting artist). The wine had a beautiful golden color, with floral notes, peach, orange peel and honey, creating an appealing and not boring Muscat.

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Final Remarks
Vítor Matos has the merit and the boldness of presenting (in an inland conservative region and in a classic charm hotel) a contemporary cuisine with a series of avant-garde notes and flawless details. It is remarkable, not only the fact of maintaining the Michelin Star (even more after seeing the small cuisine they had in the past), but also the fact of making it inland, with certainly less suppliers, less manpower and certainly less clients. The cuisine presented an excellent technical domain and a care and special interest not only for the flavors but for awakening all the senses, through smell or the excellence of the textures and colors combination. It revealed to be an excellent gastronomic experience, despite some less well achieved elements, in a mandatory visit space.

Casa Da Calçada
Largo do Paço, 6, Amarante
(+351) 255 410 830
book@largodopaco.com

Note
We were at Casa da Calçada and Largo do Paço by invitation, whereas this not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

Text: João Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

Portuguese Version

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