Friday, May 9, 2014

Belcanto José Avillez: Michelin Star Dining in Lisbon

Lisbon has long been home to a rich culinary culture in which the abundance of fresh seafood offered up by Portugal’s long coastline is particularly prominent. In recent years the rustic flavours of traditional Portuguese cooking have been combined with cutting edge gastronomy to make Lisbon’s restaurant scene one of the most exciting in Europe, such as Belcanto. Combining the traditional and the avant garde, Belcanto's chef José Avillez took over a decades old restaurant in Lisbon’s Chiado neighbourhood and transformed it into a gastronomic laboratory for Portuguese cuisine, and has been awarded two Michelin stars. His cutting edge take on classical flavours is key to the ever changing menu, and reveals the breadth and depth of Portuguese cooking beyond the typical tourist staples. Avillez claims that he looks ‘at haute cuisine as a form of expression’ and this is immediately apparent in his dishes, each of which offers a narrative in itself as well as being visually stunning and delicious. Highlights of a visit to Belcanto include the Skate Jackson Pollock, a delicious seafood dish presented in the style of the late Abstract Expressionist, and an Inverted Martini, in which the traditional cocktail is turned inside out and upside down. We chose Chef Avillez's classic tasting menu with wine pairings, for what would be the finest dining experience of our time in Lisbon.

Belcanto's selection of tasting menus and a la carte dishes

Belcanto's Portuguese sparkling wine

The sparkling wine was a delicious aperitif to begin our tasting menu

Bottles of wine were placed on ice in preparation for our dinner

The first amuse-bouche

The second amuse-bouche were gelatin encased bursts of olive flavours served with a 'dirty martini'

The olive flavoured 'Dirty Martini'

The third amuse-bouche bursted with tastes of the sea with dried shrimp and delicates sauces served suspended over a small copper pot

The fourth amuse-bouche was served on a rock

The fifth amuse-bouche looked like a Ferrara Roché chocolate but was actually savoury 

The first of our wine pairings

A glass of the Portuguese white wine

After our five amuse-boche we were then served this little appetizer of poached prawn

Our first course of the tasting menu, "Wave Breaking" with shellfish, coastal prawns, with 'seawater' foam and seaweed 'sand'

Close-up of José Avillez's famous 2012 dish

Smoked Mackerel Belly marinated with vegetable purée and 'confetti',
a dish created by Chef Avillez in 2012

The third course of the tasting menu, 'Hen that Laid the Golden Egg'

The 'golden egg' was a perfectly poached egg finished with edible gold leaf

Inspired by Lisbon's cobblestone streets, this dish entitled 'Lisbon's Sidewalk Stones' was Red Mullet served with a liver sauce (2013)

The red wine to be served with our meat course

A lovely Portuguese red wine

Roasted lamb leg twice cooked with Portuguese flavoured chickpea purée and pumpkin

The first dessert, lemon mouse in dissolving gelatine cups

The main dessert called 'Tangerine' which was a tangerine flavoured mousse inside an orange coloured gelatine sphere

The tangerine dessert opened

The final wine of our tasting menu, a sweet Portuguese dessert wine

A glass of the Portuguese sweet wine

The final surprise, a small wooden box arrives

The box opens to reveal the first made jellies

The next layer...little cakes

The last made chocolates

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