Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chiado: Elegant Portuguese Cuisine on College

"Traditional Portuguese cooking with a modern North American twist", is how restaurateur Albino Silva describes the food at Chiado, considered to be one of the best Portuguese restaurants in North America. The fine dining cornerstone of Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood, diners have come to expect flawless service and genuine hospitality from Albino Silva, who personally greets diners before being escorted into Chiado's elegantly appointed dining room, complete with gold-framed oil paintings, sophisticated tableware and crisp linen napkins, folded in the shape of little tuxedo jackets. 

Chiado's elegant interior 

Old world charm, grace and elegance characterize Chiado and Senhor Antonio, its adjoining tapas bar, along with some of the best fish in town, which is flown in fresh daily from the Azores, and prepared with updated twists on traditional recipes by executive chef Manuel Vilela. As Albino seats us at our table, he notices that I have a special handbag and discretely brings over a small jewelled purse hook, and quietly suspends my bag on the clip. A small and thoughtful gesture and one of the seemingly effortless details that makes Chiado such a unique and special place. When I remark that I had actually met him many years before at a cooking class, he doesn't miss a beat, and says, "I knew I'd talked to this face before." Handsome, thoughtful and charming.

Flawless service, Albino's gracious hospitality and the freshest fish flown in daily from the Azores, have made Chiado one of the best Portuguese restaurants in North America

A collection of original art hangs throughout the restaurant

As we perused the menu, we decided to start with some sparkling wine and choose a delicious Portuguese Vertice Cuvée Reserva from Chiado's impressive wine list, which focuses almost exclusively on Portuguese wines. Soon a bowl of sun-dried black olives arrived along with a linen-lined bowl of fresh Pão de Milho, a Portuguese cornbread made with white corn flour and wheat flour, that's completely addictive — chewy on the inside with a crunchy golden crust. Served with some crisp buttery paper-thin melba toast and small bowls of fragrant olive oil, we nibbled away as we sipped our glasses of Cuvée Reserva.

We begin with two glasses of dry sparkling Portuguese Vertice Cuvée Reserva, 
a crisp, fresh and lightly fruity start to our lunch

A bowl of sun-dried black olives arrive to whet our appetite

A linen draped bowl of lovely fresh Pão de Milho – Portuguese Cornbread - 
and crisp buttery paper-thin melba toast

A small decorative bowl with Portuguese olive oil and ceramic pot of moist sea salt, 
perfect for dipping cornbread or garnishing fish

After we finally decide what we'll have for lunch, a complimentary amuse-bouche of fresh cow's milk cheese with rosemary infused honey and balsamic drizzle arrived. Light, fresh and delicate, the cheese is perfect with the sweet honey and robust balsamic vinegar. Having finished our sparkling wine, we select another Portuguese wine for the meal - a Quinta do Crasto 2011 white wine from Portugal - which was kept chilled in a wine bucket next to our table. 

An amuse Bouche of fresh cow's milk cheese, rosemary honey and drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Chiado luncheon menu

Quinta do Crasto 2011, a vibrant Portuguese white wine with excellent minerality 
and notes of soft citrus and tropical fruits, was kept chilled throughout our meal

The wine was delicious paired with the tangy olives as well as our fabulous lunch

For appetizers, we selected the Grilled Sardines with lemon, parsley and extra virgin olive oil served over grilled peppers, tomato and mushrooms with a light salsa. Butterflied and de-boned, the char-grilled sardines were moist, delicate and without a doubt, the best sardines I've had the pleasure of enjoying. My husband ordered the Grilled Smoked Pork Sausage (chourico) with julienned carrots and a plum chuntney. Rich, smokey and full-flavoured, the sausages were a triumph also. 

Grilled Sardines with lemon, parsley and extra virgin olive oil served over 
grilled peppers, tomato and mushrooms with a light salsa

Grilled Smoked Pork Sausage - chourico - with julienned carrots and a plum chuntney

The wine glasses are etched with 'Chiado' - a small but elegant detail 

For entrées, we chose two of the fresh fish flown in from Portugal: Black Espada from Madeira served over saffron risotto with snow peas and red pepper, and a Whole Grilled Dorado (Portuguese Sea Bream) drizzled with a little olive oil and finished with a simple salsa garnish. Served with a side dish of roast potatoes, sautéed asparagus, carrots and red beets, the meal was outstanding. The fish was impeccable — perfectly cooked and full of flavour. 

Black Espada from Madeira served over saffron risotto with snow peas and red pepper

Whole grilled Dorado - Portuguese Sea Bream - drizzled with a little olive oil 
and finished with a simple salsa garnish

The Dorado was served with a side dish of roast potatoes, sautéed asparagus, 
carrots and sweet beets

Good to the last bite...

Chiado dessert menu

To finish the meal, we enjoyed an espresso, macchiato and Peras Cozidas, one of Chiado's exquisite desserts. Pear poached in Madeira wine with cinnamon and saffron, the dessert was as elegant as the setting — and the perfect end to an exceptional meal. I can hardly wait until we come back again.

But first an espresso...

..and a hot and foamy Macchiato

'Peras Cozidas', poached pears with Madeira wine, citrus, cinnamon and saffron

An exceptional meal -  an exceptional restaurant

Executive Chef Manuel Vilela

Tarte de Frutas Secos
Serves 8-10
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Manuel Vilela, Chiado

A tart of dried fruits and nuts in a linzer shell which Chiado serves with honey creme anglaise and cinnamon cream. Delicious when matched with a tawny port.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups ground hazelnuts
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup chopped dried prunes
1/3 cup chopped dried figs
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup hazelnuts

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream

Place butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the flour and hazelnuts and pulse until mixture resembles small peas. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and pulse until mixture begins to clump together. Scrape the mixture out of the food processor onto a floured board and combine into a ball. Mixture may be slightly sticky. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll or pat out pastry into a 9 or 10 inch tart pan. Scatter fruit and nuts over pastry. Bring sugar and water to boil on medium heat for about 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from heat and stir in cream until incorporated. Cool slightly then pour evenly over fruit and nuts.
Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until caramel is bubbling and pastry is crisp. Serve with creme anglaise.