Lifestyle & Culture

Mónica Da Silva: These four Michelin star restaurants showcase the diversity, creativity of Portugal

The first time I heard the term “Michelin star” while talking about restaurants some years ago, I immediately thought of the renowned tire brand and how in the world could these two things be related. Later on, I did my research and realized that not only is the Michelin star system related to the tire company, but it was created by its owners.

How did this happen? 

Well, the Michelin Guide was created in 1900 by the Michelin brothers, founders of the tire company. As cars weren’t that common in that time, the goal of this guide would be to recommend places for people to travel to, like a guidebook with places where to stay, where to eat, and maps for how to reach them. Basically, they needed people to use their cars to travel so they would need to exchange their tires more often and buy them off Michelin.

A genius and subtle marketing strategy, if you ask me. 

However, the star system to evaluate restaurants wasn’t introduced until 1926. Originally, a single star was awarded for “a very good restaurant”, two stars for “excellent cooking, worth a detour” and three stars for “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. This system is still used nowadays everywhere in the world and the Michelin Guide still exists in both printed and online formats. As for the tire company, Michelin is the world’s largest tire manufacturer, so we could say that their strategy was successful after all.

Portuguese cuisine is very rich and varied, if you’re interested in it, I wrote a post about the typical dishes from north to south Portugal and where to eat them without leaving Lisbon. In Portugal there are currently 29 restaurants with one star and seven with two stars.

Take into consideration that Portugal is a very small country, so we can’t compare the amount of stars it has with bigger countries such as Germany or Spain. In this post, I have gathered a list of four restaurants that represent the diversity and tastefulness of Portuguese cuisine. 

Encanto  

Website I Location: Lisbon

The renowned Portuguese Chef José Avillez is in charge of this vegetarian restaurant that offers a unique experience where vegetables and fruits are the main characters in a wide variety of colors, textures and temperatures. Encanto is located in the heart of Lisbon and the tasting menu includes 12 courses that can be paired with their astonishing choice of wines or drinks without alcohol such as craft kombucha. The final price for the tasting menu and wine or alcohol-free pairing is 220 euros per person. 

There are not a lot of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe that are specialized in vegetarian food because most of them only have a vegetarian variation of their original menu. So, this speaks volumes about the quality of the food and, obviously, the skills of the chef. Furthermore, Encanto received its star the same year it opened, which is not very common because the process to get get that first star tends to be longer.

It is open for dinner (from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.) from Tuesday to Saturday and reservations can be made on their website. 

 Il Gallo d’Oro            

 Website I Location: Madeira

       In 2020 the Michelin guide introduced its green star system which is awarded to restaurants that are committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility within the culinary industry. Il Gallo d’Oro obtained its first traditional star in 2009, the second one in 2017 and the green star for sustainability in gastronomy in 2023. This gourmet restaurant is located inside the 5-star Cliff Bay Hotel in Madeira and it’s the only Michelin-starred restaurant on the island.  

The French Chef Benoît Sinthom, delights the restaurant’s customers with a variety of traditional Madeiran dishes but with a totally innovative interpretation. The tasting menu ranges from 8 to 12 dishes and changes four times per year according to the seasons in order to always offer the freshest products. Reservations normally need to be made weeks in advance through their website and prices range from 330 euros to 450 euros per person including wine pairing.   

 Le Monument

Website I Location: Port

Le Monument is one of the five restaurants with one Michelin star in Porto and is in the charge of the French Chef Julien Montbabut, who offers, in his own words, “a journey of flavors around Portugal”. You can choose from two tasting menus, one with 10 dishes plus wine pairing which is 260 euros and another one with 14 dishes plus wine pairing which is 320 euros per person. 

Both menus combine traditional Portuguese dishes from different regions of the country including fish and different types of meat cooked with French techniques. The journey ends on a sweet note with the beautiful and delicious creations of pastry Chef Joana Thöny-Montbabut. For reservations you can go to their website, the restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday for dinner (from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p. m.).   

     

Vila Joya

Website I Location: the Algarve 

Moving on to the south of the country, Austrian Chef Dieter Koschina, who masterfully mixes central european with portuguese tastes, opened this restaurant in 1991, was awarded his first star in 1995 and the second one in 1999. One of the most surprising things about Vila Joya is that the chef and his international team create a new menu everyday for lunch besides their signature menu, available for lunch and dinner, with four courses. 

Vila Joya is located inside the homonymous hotel and if you are not staying there, it is important that you make a reservation in advance because the guests of the hotel have priority access to the restaurant for dinner. The signature menu is 250 euros and the daily changing menu for lunch 220 euros, none of these prices include drinks. 

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Read more about Portugal here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more from Mónica here.

Website | + posts

Mónica da Silva is half-Venezuelan, half Portuguese and has lived in Venezuela, Portugal, Spain and Germany. She has studies linguistics and has a Bachelor’s Degree in European Studies. Besides contributing to Dispatches, she works remotely as an English teacher, which allows her to be on the move as often as she wants. 

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