Lisbon’s Gourmet Fish Festival: Through the Eyes of a Food Blogger

What’s it like to be a food blogger, you ask?

Good question! This past weekend, I went on a press trip to help expert foodie, Mary from Your Lisbon Guide, cover “Peixe em Lisboa“, Lisbon’s Gourmet Fish & Flavours Festival. Ten of the city’s best restaurants came to showcase their best fish dishes, including Portugal’s top chefs and Michelin star chefs from around Europe. Our mission? To, uncover Lisbon’s best fish restaurants. And it all happened right inside this building…

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Needless to say, it was quite the culinary ride.

Now, you know how much I absolutely adore good food! However, this was my first big event as a culinary blogger and critique, among some of the world’s most elite foodie figures. Your Lisbon Guide and I tag teamed to taste the best dishes from four of the ten restaurant contenders. Here’s an insider look of how it went down:

Each chef personally came over to our table to present his or her finest flavors. We were then instructed on how to eat them, what sauces were handmade for each dish, and which Portuguese wine pairings we should drink with each plate. Finally, we were very strictly advised in which order we should eat each plate; generally, the mildest dish leading up to the strongest. I quickly learned, there were a few BIG NO NO’s in the world of high culinary tastings:

  • DO NOT eat or drink before 739329 pictures are taken of the plate, in at least six different angles.
  • DO NOT mess up the eating order of plates
  • And finally…DO NOT cross sauces from one plate’s special sauce to the next. A culinary oh no she didn’ttttt.

So, buckle up my hungry little foodies in training! I’m about to take you on a wild culinary fishventure through four of Peixe Em Lisboa‘s top restaurants. The mission? To find the winning fish dish. Fishing rods and forks ready…set…BOM APETITE!

1. Chapito á Mesa: Fishtastically Creative

Portuguese Chef Bertílio Gomes is one of the very best in Portugal, and after tasting his complex yet pure dishes, I don’t doubt it! He specializes in pure Portuguese cuisine, infused with his own innovative, contemporary twist. His plates don’t only taste fishtastic, but they are absolutely gorgeous! Marked by vibrant colors and geometric shapes, I ate with my eyes, first. Let’s fish!

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The winner? It was a close call between the grilled grouper and the octopus; However, I must declare the winner to be…drum roll please…the grilled octopus over squid ink cous cous! As stunningly beautiful as it looks, it tastes. The handmade cous cous from the north of Portugal, Trás-os-Montes, had a deep, rich and moist complexity that really complemented the flavors of the charred squid and salórnia fresh herbs. The combination of textures were like a playground for the tongue; a dish that was fun to look at and even more fun to eat!

Eat it for yourself: Chapito á Mesa

2. Ibo: Mozambique Portuguese Fusion

Chef John Pedrosa grew up between Mozambique and Portugal. As his love for both cuisines and passion for culinary creativity grew, he began experimenting with the flavors of his two identities; mixing the spicy, bold flavors of Mozambique with the fresh and pure ingredients of Portugal. And low and behold…a star was born.

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The winner? While every dish truly stood out in its own unique and vibrant way… I couldn’t stop raving about the seafood curry. The spicy, complex flavors of the curry enhanced the varying textures and characters of the fresh shrimp, squid and crab to make a dish that was plain and simply, fishlicious. Not to mention, Chef Pedrosa is an absolute doll! (Yes, that is a selfie of us in the slideshow above 😉 ).

Eat it for yourself: Ibo Restaurante, in Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré

 3. Chef Kiko at A Cevicheria

Chef Kiko took us on a wild flavor ride through his innovative variations of Ceviche; the Peruvian staple gone Portuguese.

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The winner? We absolutely adored the Confit Codfish with smoked duck, hummus and olives. The smokiness of the duck, mixed with the freshness and tenderness of the fish, juxtaposed with the creamy hummus and salty olives? MmmMMMMmmmm.

Eat it for yourself: A Cevicheria. Or visit Chef Kiko’s other award winning Lisbon restaurant, O Talho.

4. José Avillez: The Michelin Man!

The only Portuguese chef with two Michelin stars in one restaurant, the famous Belcanto was chosen as one of the 100 best restaurants in the world! He combines the freshest of fish with the freshest of fresh ingredients, to create pure yet unique flavor combinations, presented in a simplistic manner.

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The winner? The Octopus with kimchi, garlic and cilantro. This bright dish truly makes your taste buds wake up! The combination of the octopus with kimchi and garlic was refreshing and zesty, made refreshingly vibrant with the fresh cilantro. The perfect summer dish!

Eat it for yourself: The two Michelin Star Belcanto in Lisbon’s central Chiado district. Or, try his multiple other gems: Cantinho de Avillez Lisboa,  Café Lisboa, Mini Bar, and Pizzaraia Lisboa (yes, he’s even got a pizzeria!) In Porto? Go to his Cantinho de Avillez Porto!

In Fishclusion?

Yea, being a food blogger is pretty fishtastic. My first ever gourmet press event at Peixe em Lisboa with the well seasoned foodie Miss Mary from Your Lisbon Guide went swimmingly fabulous! I learned all about the etiquettes, pairings, Portuguese delicacies and more. One thing is for fishy sure: I will be back in Lisbon to give all four of these top restaurants a proper visit. And now, I present to you:

The AWC Peixe Em Lisboa Winner…

IBO Restaurante! Of course, this is subjective to my own tastes. It was a tough call- However, it was something about the Mozambican- Portuguese fusion, with the wild and complex mixture of spices and textures that had me saying “Oh…my…god…” after every bite. That’s when you know.

Now, here’s your homework!

YOU go to Lisbon, and test these fine fishy dishes.

Here are the Peixe em Lisboa details:

When: April 7- 17th 2016 (Or, catch it next year, around the same time! Date TBD)

WhereLisbon, Portugal of course!

Price:  15€ for admission, 5€ per plate, 1 drink of 1.50€

Do you dream of being a gourmet food blogger? Which of these fish dishes sound the best to you?And finally, which of these restaurants are you dying to go to on your next visit to Lisbon?!?

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