I know my readers must be waiting with bated breath to learn how our return to O Comercial went, my other motivation for writing this post is that I like the restaurant which has new young team who are trying, and I think are well on the path of succeeding, in offering an accessible but fine dining experience in Porto, a place for celebration, indulgence and a bit of affordable luxury.
On this occasion Julie and I met the owner and Maître D and importantly his chef Samantha a young French woman who was quiet but proficient beyond her years in the Kitchen.
Once again the restaurant was not busy, the effects of a mid-week evening in February and the restrictions placed upon the team by their situation in the palace. This restaurant could be a great success, but it needs a combination of good cooking, good service (which it has) and word of mouth which must be constantly developed.
The room was still grand but with the lighting more romantic in the evening, with a soundtrack of cool jazz, which always works for me.
We don’t know Portuguese food and we wanted a treat on our last night so we opted for the Chefs tasting menu at 35 Euro’s which consisted of 7 courses that seemed well balanced and gave the chef the opportunity to show of her skills. The wine choice we left to our waiter to did not disappoint by choosing a bottle of Portal Colheita a Duoro wine from 2008 that drank like a mature Châteauneuf de Pape full flavoured with a spicy jammy finish.
To start was a little amuse-bouche of quenelles of tuna pate with good olive oil, and bread, nicely done, not remarkable but good.
The second course was remarkable, a Carpaccio of Veal topped with Rocket Leaves aged local Cheese and a Herb dressing, Carpaccio is always a winner for Julie, so I had to skirmish a little for my share but both of us enjoyed the fresh contrasting flavours of a dish that depends on the quality of the ingredients.
To follow was a simple Onion Soup served with a Cheese Toastie, the soup was delicate and light a contrast to the rustic winey joys of a French Onion soup, it was good but to be very good I think it needed something extra to broaden the flavour, possibly a little Star Anise or some finely chopped spring onion. Despite my ideas I would point out that the bowls went back empty!
The fourth course moved up several notches a delightful and pretty plate consisting of Black Pudding in a Pastry Case on a bed of lightly Caramelised Apples, some salad leaves and a Alheira De Caca which is a play on hunters sausage in which game is mixed with bread and spices wrapped in a thin filo pastry and topped with a fried quails egg. Yes it is as nice as it sounds, I’m a sucker for well-cooked game and I would have happily eaten, two, or three, or……..
Then a simple? Pretty palate cleanser before for the main course, a delicate glass layered with ‘drunk pears’ or pears cooked in wine, then a layer of black vodka topped with a passion fruit sorbet. The drunk pears managed to have a little bite to them a bit like a Nashi pear and the passion fruit sorbet was very smooth.
The main course was a choice between fish, Sole if I remember correctly and Pork, we went for Pork, a delicious braised piece of Black Pig served with a Wild Mushroom Risotto and Ratatouille. This is a dish that benefits from a slow kitchen because unless you have a dedicated member of staff or the time within the service to properly supervise the dish, Risotto is nearly impossible to make well in a commercial kitchen. Samantha nearly nailed it, I think the rice was slightly overcooked, but to compensate the risotto was overflowing with Cep mushrooms, the pork tasted great and the Ratatouille gave a taste of sunshine in the middle of winter.
Julie and I had different Desserts for the 7th and last course. Julie had a trio of Mousses – Peanut, Caramel and Chocolate. They were very elegantly presented in three pretty glasses and I managed to swipe a bit! Julie really enjoyed them though I think the Chocolate and Peanut mousses were really a crème (there’s no harm in that I like crème) and the caramel though it had a lighter texture was crying out for a point of Fleur de Sel to turn it from good to memorable.
I had a Chocolate Coulant served with a Chilli Chocolate sauce and Raspberry Sorbet, Samantha had got this one 100% correct, a delicate sponge hiding an oozing chocolate sauce completed by the Chilli sauce and the fresh sorbet, if I had more time and the money I would have had seconds!
So what’s my overall view? Well want to support such a young team in such a beautiful setting, the food and wine tried over the two days (lunch and dinner) was based on the best of Portuguese produce and culinary tradition with a French classical touch which given the nationality of the chef is no surprise. My criticism are quibbles, would I eat here again? Yes absolutely. Should you eat here? Yes absolutely. As the new chef and team settle I think it will be an interesting summer. You might be able to eat better in Porto but only in a handful of places, it will cost you twice as much and would probably involve eating in some indifferent places first.