Assinatura - Lisbon, Portugal

Dinner - Friday, October 3, 2014

By and large, the food we ate in Lisbon was cheap, but not particularly great. For example, a meal at the lauded Cervejaria Ramiro was only ~120 Euros (for 5!) and certainly better than anything we might get in San Diego, but it paled in comparison to seafood spots in Barcelona (is this just a cultural preference on our part?)

Our luck improved on our last night, with dinner at the fancifully decorated Restaurante Assinatura. I happened across it as a one-time mention on Chowhound, and it is evidently not on the Michelin Man's radar - too bad for them. Melodramatic waiter aside (and he was charming in his own peculiar way), this was a very enjoyable dinner.

Pork crackling, crab salad
Local oysters
Iberian pork cream, Aveiro seaweed
Grilled boleta, braised chard, nasturtium
Foraged porcini, expertly grilled, was pleasantly smoky. The chard was cooked to the point of melting - delicious. The raw slices were puzzling - I can probably count the number of times I have enjoyed raw mushrooms on one hand.

Black pudding, pear, onion
A serious hunk of black pudding was beautifully charred and caramelized on the exterior, yet soft on the inside - like a savory, mineral canelé. The pickled onion and sweet pear were essential to stave off palate fatigue.

Atlantic snapper
Massa souvada, parsnip, peperoncini
Given the curl of the snapper, I was worried that it was grossly overcooked when it arrived. No need to worry - it was excellent. An interesting accompaniment was the toasted batons of massa souvada - egg and potato bread with cinnamon. The small amount of spice worked surprisingly well with the white fish.

Grilled Iberian pork shoulder and its jus
Charred leek puree, honey-glazed pears, rosemary
Damn, this was good. Compositionally, not particularly creative, but the pork was downright fantastic. Based on the meat alone, this was one of the best pieces of pork I have ever had - it caught everyone at the table completely unawares. Thickness, temperature, texture, flavour - everything was just right (down to the creamy fatcap).

Smoked goat cheese, persimmon
Peach sorbet, poached peach, almond ganache
At 8pm on a Friday evening, we were the first customers of the night. By the time we left at 11pm, I counted 4 seated tables. I hope this was an unusual day - this restaurant deserves better. The Portuguese dining scene may not be as evolved as its next-door neighbour's, but Assinatura would be a good pick in any city.

Rua do Vale Pereiro 19
1250-270 Lisboa
Phone: +351 (21) 386-7696