With my career being in restaurants, food is kind of my reason for living. When I visit a new city, I like to eat across different levels of dining. For dinner on my last night in Porto, my 2 Portuguese friends and I went to Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira which I gathered to be THE special occasion expensive seafood restaurant in Matosinhos. My lovely friend was NOT happy I was spending more money on her (look at her FACE! Oh man, I’m in trouble.) The mayor of Porto and the mayor of Matosinhos and their wives were at a table on the other side of the dining room, and I was excited to be living large.
My friend Tiago walked with me up to the raw bar counter where we talked with one of the chefs about seafood unique to European/Portuguese waters. They brought out what looked like a dungeoness crab (I’m guessing its species but I’m no expert!) which walked up and down the counter like a top heavy body builder. I think we ate him later. We also got to see several kinds of shellfish, 2 kinds of lobster, and a giant prawn. This is Tiago’s favorite seafood restaurant in the world, where he has been coming with family since his youth. That’s a lot of expectations! Happily, the restaurant delivered on it’s reputation for the highest standards.
Everything we were served was amazing. The bodybuilder crab (I’m pretty sure that’s the species – or maybe it was a Lance Armstrong crab, on the juice) was served steamed, white crab meat cooked to perfection and not a second over. In its shell was creamy, succulent crab dip. We had small clams cooked in white wine and butter, and soaked up the sauce (and the crab dip) with toast. Despite being pretty full already, the 3 of us split Açorda de Marisco, one of the house specialties, amazingly rich and delicious Portuguese bread soup studded with gems of shrimp and other local seafood.
If I had to try to summarize my dining experience at Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira, I would use just one word. It’s the same word that I reflexively muttered when the waiter wheeled out the incredible dessert cart, and in fact, I will go ahead with this one word to summarize my entire first visit to Portugal: damn.