Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cervejaria Ramiro: Shellfish Heaven in Lisbon

For those partial to seafood, Cervejaria Ramiro is a slice of shellfish heaven. A classic old Lisbon restaurant and cervejaria since 1956, Cervejaria Ramiro has a reputation among both chefs and Lisboetas as having the absolute best fish and seafood in the entire city. They source the best and prepare them simply and perfectly. Senhor Ramiro, a native of Galícia in Spain, set up this once tiny marisqueira in what was then a dodgy part of town. It's still a bit dodgy but the food is definitely worth the walk — and the wait. With lineups usually outside the door mosts days, it pays to get there early. When Anthony Bourdain went to Lisbon, he dined at Cervejaria Ramiro, so of course we had too also. Knowing about the lineups, we arrived before the restaurant opened at noon, and were the first ones through the doors seated at one of the restaurants coveted tables.

Arriving just as Cervejaria Ramiro opened at noon, we escaped any long queue 
and nestled down for a great meal

With great attention to detail, even their linen napkins have an embroidered CR

Cold glasses of Sagres beer is the beverage of choice at the restaurant

A popular first course at Cervejaria Ramiro is their house-made Pata Negra Sanchez Romero Carvaja, a dark smoked ham similar to thick prociutto. We followed with a plate of 'Percebes' Gooseneck Barnacles, half a dozen Canilhas, rather like giant whelks, Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, clams in garlic white wine sauce and an enormous Grilled Giant Tiger Prawn plus a heaping plate of toasted buttered bread, because at Cervejario Ramiro, eating with you hands is more than recommended, to soak up all of the lovely broths. Anthony Bourdain gave this place rave reviews for its seafood and 'Prego', a meaty Portuguese sandwich which he suggests ordering for 'dessert' — so after a decadent seafood-fest, we shared a steak sandwich for 'dessert'. 

Pata Negra Sanchez Romero Carvaja, a dark smoked ham similar to thick prociutto

Gooseneck Barnacles, or 'Percebes' are a seafood delicacy at Cervejaria Ramiro

One of the ultimate seafood delicacies at Cervejaria Ramiro, Gooseneck Barnacles are bought from divers who go dangerously deep to pluck the juiciest ones — back in the kitchen, they steam them with seawater to retain their briny flavour. To eat these little treasures, one simply twists the crinkly brown neck to slip if off, then suck the pink meat straight from the shell. Percebes taste like the essence of the ocean, sweeter than lobster, but with a more substantial texture than razor clams. Having never tried them before, they just looked so outrageous I had to give them a try. My husband announced "You're on your own." They wasn't much meat inside, but often delicious things come in small packages. The other dishes we ordered were simply outstanding — fresh, flavourful and simply prepared, which combined with the efficient, effervescent and ever-friendly Portuguese service, Cervejaria Ramiro is a 'must' on any trip to Lisbon.

Half a dozen steamed Canilhas

Using a small pin-shaped knife, the meat of the canilhas are pulled from the shell

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato: clams in garlic white wine sauce, 
named after the 19th-century Lisboeta poet Bulhão Pato, a well-known gourmand

Toasted bread with butter is ordered by everyone to help soak up the broth goodness of the dishes

All of the empty shells...good to last barnacle

15 minutes after we arrived, the restaurant is full and the staff are bustling around, 
but always with a grin, a wink and a friendly chat

Carabineiros Grelhados, a giant grilled prawn

Grilled perfectly with succulent meat, even the legs are savoured for their flavour

The line-up was out the door by the time we left the restaurant

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