Portuguese cuisine is known for its full flavours and, of course, fish! (The seafaring nation boasts the highest fish consumption per capita in Europe.) Olive oil is very important and garlic, coriander and parsley are used liberally. At the heart of it all is the principle of using quality ingredients, prepared simply to preserve the distinct, robust flavours. Oh, and the wines, both red and white, are a delight.
All of which which makes Portus Calle a place you should really visit, because not only are they the perfect spot for lunch or dinner, but they’ve also got a great boutique where you can buy wine, port, olive oil and much, much more. The media dinner we attended was held in honour of one of the restos’ upcoming High Lights events which features the renowned chef Johanne Vigneault, owner of La Table du Roy in Les Îles de la Madeleine. Portus Calle chef/owner Helena Loureiro created a menu with Vigneault to give a taste of what they’ll be serving during the foodie fest.
Rushing in from the nippy eve, we started with a warming sip of the restaurant’s house port, which prepared palates for the menu to come: carpaccio of young veal with sprouts, a trio of cultivated scallops, scrambled eggs with chorizo and asparagus, lobster bisque with sea foam and grilled shrimp, Mediterranean bar fish with baby clams and a wild rose sorbet touched with pastis. Mmm…good!
The cuisine was simple and delicious with a fusion of subtle flavours. An interesting touch was the bread, served in a cloth bag, with butter and tiny black olives, whose sharp taste was a nice surprise. The carpaccio was sliced to perfection, and a perfect beginning. But the scallops – oh, the scallops. One had a miso vinaigrette and tasted slightly Asian, one was utterly natural with only lemon juice and one was touched delicately with fruits, adding a sweetness to the sea sense.
The asparagus dish was interesting with the crisply-cooked chorizo adding a spicy sensation to the mildness of the eggs and asparagus. And then the lobster bisque, served to sip from a tiny cup. Lovely! The bar fish was perfectly cooked, with the white flesh melting on the fork. The simple butter, oil and parsley base let the fish flavour come to the fore. Dessert was perfectly light, its tartness balancing out the elegant meal.
Double Trouble (February 21 & 22)
Portus Calle’s Helena Loureiro invites Portuguese chef and oenophile Margarida Cabaço into her kitchen. Cabaço loves wine pairings and in 2001 she produced her first wine, Monte dos Cabaços, with winemaker Susana Esteban. Together, Loureiro and Cabaço are sure to serve up an evening you won’t soon forget.
Magdalen Islands and Portugal in the Same Boat (February 24)
For the past 30 years, Chef Johanne Vigneault has been cooking at La Table des Roy in the Iles des Magdalen. Her refined menu is based on what the markets provide- sashimi with bay scallops, creamy polenta with Pied-de-Vent cheese, to name just a mouth-watering few. She will also be teaming up with Portus Calle’s Helena Loureiro to create a seafood lover’s feast.
Portus Calle, 4281 St-Lawrence Street, Metro: Sherbrooke
Montreal High Lights Festival, February 17-27, 2011