Portugal is one of those places that keeps calling me back… I’d visited Lisbon and the Algarve several years ago, and then I finally made it to Porto last autumn. Regular followers of this site will know the love affair I conducted with Madeira over six weeks at the start of 2022, and I’m already plotting my return next year. But in the meantime,
Lizboa by De Kok & De Maitre
I’m not sure how long Lizboa will live in its current guise because it’s a pop-up, but right now it’s on one of those big boats that’s behind the Lloyd Hotel. Which makes it a lovely spot for an al fresco aperitif and a sunset on the upstairs deck. Afterwards, you come down into the main body of the boat for a four-course Portuguese-inspired fixed tasting menu. I thought I’d made notes at the time (it was a couple of months ago that I ate there) but it seems I hadn’t, so forgive me if these descriptions are a little thin on the ground… What I do remember, however, is that I loved it!
To start, we ate a dish of green and white haricot beans with a sweet-savoury dressing and caramelised peanuts (I think). Next came smoked beef tartare with samphire and puffed rice, which was absolutely delicious and probably my favourite dish of the night (albeit I’m not sure how Portuguese it was). The main course tasted rather more of my trip to Porto: a tomato-based rice dish with grilled swordfish and a piquant olive salsa. And finally, dessert was a take on a crème brûlée, about which I’m rather hazy! We did the wine pairings as well, which were excellent, and the service overall was top notch. I very much hope Lizboa sticks around (or finds another location) because I loved the concept.
An equally pleasant experience was ARCA, located in the rather swanky art’otel where 5&33 used to be. The décor and service hasn’t changed considerably, but the menu has. It offers a combination of Portuguese classics on one side and dishes with an Asian-fusion twist on the other. You can plump for a menu that showcases one or the other, or you can choose your own mixture of both (which is what we did). The wine list also leans heavily Portuguese, which is nice to see.
On the traditional side of the menu, bacalhau a bras is an authentic Portuguese salt cod dish with potatoes and egg that’s prepared at the table, seasoned with diced olives and chopped parsley. It’s not much to look at, but the flavour is pure Portugal. Duck rice is deconstructed into a perfectly cooked magret (duck breast) with a hearty rice dish laced with vegetables and more duck. While bife a Portuguesa comprises slices of medium-rare sirloin steak topped with a fried egg and served with a mustard-white wine sauce. On the modern-fusion side of the menu, we tried the tuna tataki with an escabeche of julienned carrots, peppers and tomatoes with coriander oil and a mild chilli oil. The jury was out on which side of the menu we liked the best!
Franggo means chicken in Portuguese, so it’s no surprise that this joint – with two locations in Amsterdam – is all about piri-piri chicken. The chicken itself was very good: moist meat, just-charred skin, good flavour and the right amount of spice. But the sides were not up to the same standards. The baked jacket potato was the opposite of what it should be: flabby skin and unfluffy inside, while the tomatoes in the tomato salad were unripe despite it being the height of summer. We went to Franggo’s location in de Pijp, where we sat inside (there was no outdoor seating) and it was boiling hot and the bathroom was dirty. So all in all, if you do fancy piri-piri chicken, I’d suggest getting a half or a whole chicken to take away and turning it into a picnic with your own sides at nearby Sarphatipark.
I had high hopes for Portugália Tasca, with its wide pavement terrace and menu of petiscos (small dishes to share). And indeed, if you’re craving a white port tonic cocktail and some bacalhau croquettes to snack on, it’ll certainly scratch that itch. But the other dishes we tried were a little hit and miss. I enjoyed the fava bean puree with chorizo, but the rissóis de camarão reminded me of Findus crispy pancakes in the 90s. The piri-piri chicken was well prepared and came with a properly spicy sauce on the side, but the duck rice was dry and a little lacking in flavour. And everything we ate seemed quite small for the price. But stop by for a port-tonic and a snack and you’ll be happy!
Other places for Portuguese food in Amsterdam
It’s been well over a decade since I ate at what was presumably Amsterdam’s first Portuguese restaurant: De Portugees. I didn’t think much of it at the time, so I’ve not been back since, but if you’re on the Zeedijk it could well have improved in the intervening years.
Meanwhile, if you’re fiending for Portuguese custard tarts – pastéis de nata – you can order them online from Mister Nata and get a box to share with friends or colleagues. Alternatively, if Madeira’s answer to a rum cocktail – the legendary (and lethal) poncha – tickles your fancy, get in touch with Paulo at Poncha Amsterdam for a citrus drink with a kick.