A Fantastic Finale to Day 1
I tend to only post once a day but tonight’s dinner experience was fantastic and worth a post of its own! It wasn’t just the food that made it memorable, which was amazing but the whole experience was just crazy. We arrived at 7 and in Portuguese they told us to come back at 8. So we went to another restaurant on the water and had very strong Portuguese drinks and watched the sunset over the Atlantic. When we returned to the original restaurant, several men were singing an Italian song loudly while one man cooked fish on a grill right out on the street. Once he removed a row of fish from the grill and placed them on a delicate tin plate, he motioned for us to follow him. We were confused because the outdoor seating area was right next to the grill. But instead, we walked down the street and were greeted at what looked like someone’s living room with some tables in it. The woman there asked us “do you like fish?” We said “yes!” And she walked away. I believe that was the extent of our ordering. No menu. No more questions about food. She also asked what we wanted to drink in Portuguese and I said “vino tinto” which means red wine in Spanish. It might also be the same in Portuguese but I realized the locals seem to understand spanish and sometimes they speak to me in Spanish because think they think I’m Spanish.
For a starter, we were given a cold plate of shrimp only unlike the US where their heads are removed, their full bodies including their beady black eyes were all there.
I told the guys that maybe we’ll be served sardines since they’re such a big deal here. Sure enough, the waitress returned with a bowl of salad and a plate of 9 cooked massive sardines that the man from the grill down the street just brought in! I was a little nervous about trying them but from everything I heard about seafood in Portugal, I was so eager to try it. With nothing more than some salt, olive oil, and charcoal from the grill, we ate them essentially straight from the water. And Oh My God. Soooo good. I will never think of sardines the same way. We debated things like is it ok to pull stray bones out of your mouth and is this just an appetizer or is this the whole meal? In the end, we decided 3 fish per person was probably just an appetizer. We chatted for some time and occasionally wondered if more food was coming. We decided to just sit and enjoy our wine for a while and see what happens. After a while, the woman came in with a giant plate. I looked at the food and said “pulvo?” which means octopus and she said “Calamari.” We startrd to delve into the plate and realized it was full of different seafoods. Calamari, fish cheeks, eggs, baby octopus, etc. some of it was weird but it all tasted good and was garnished in red peppers, roasted potatoes, and olive oil. We realized they probably don’t have a menu and just bring you whatever they caught for the day. I was fully satisfied with my Portugese cuisine experience.
If that wasn’t enough, just as we were brought dessert which was a soft sponge like bread marinated in an orange liquor, the man who grilled our dinner came in with an accordion and played to some music that was piped in over the sound system. Everyone was singing and clapping along. What made the experience more surreal is that the Latino soap opera playing on the tv, at that moment, featured a softcore scene with three adults, something you would never see in public in the US. No one else even noticed but it made us giggle. The whole night was unexpected and a great ending to our first day on the Camino in Portugal. we finished the evening by walking back through the quiet street leading to our beautiful three story Airbnb. as we walked back to the restaurant with the grill, we saw what I think was a large family gathering. They were eating, drinking, and celebrating in a way that I’ve only seen in my Italian family gatherings. Next to the grill we’re two massive flounders which weren’t there before. I’m pretty sure someone just caught them and if we stayed longer, they would have been on our plates soon.