Although the decor could use some help, the food was exceptional in this modest establishment well up Hawthorne. We can't claim any extensive experience in Portuguese cuisine beyond a week and a half there a few years ago, but in absolute terms, the cooking here seems all about quality ingredients locally sourced and then skillfully handled to deliver rustic yet complicated dishes.
The current menu is a dozen small plates, four soup/salad options, and six entrées. There was just a single dessert (poached pear) offered on the Thursday night we dined. The current menu has a few changes from the one currently available online, but no major changes.
To start we had the wonderful tempura green beans, which were translated to "Fish of the Garden" and effectively evoked tiny fried fish as the tender beans with the merest of delicate batter were briefly flash fried, and served with a bit of aioli and the signature piri piri pepper. Equally good were two expertly grilled sardines, and a delightful serving of little green peas with tiny cubes of deeply flavored pork jowl bacon, topped with a poached egg that tied everything together.
Our entrées were braised cubes of pork shoulder with kale and potatoes which featured pork that really had the depth of flavor that is increasingly difficult to find in pork these days, cooked to proper tenderness that balanced well with the rustic kale. The show stopper however was the black olive risotto that can be had alone as a vegetarian option, or with chicken, shrimp or duck confit added for an up charge. The duck confit version was obscenely good, especially when the waiter brought a little bowl of the duck skin that had been rendered to cracklings. Portions are generous, so we passed on dessert.
Prices are reasonable; starters are $5 to $8 for small portions, and $9 to $15 for large portions for several of the dishes. Entrées are $13 to $18. Wines are exclusively Portuguese, about six whites, and eight reds, in the $24 to $40 range (a single big deal Dao is $65) and most are available by the glass.
There are some picnic tables outside, seating in the dark bar area, and tables around the semi-open kitchen in the main dining area that is a bit bleak illuminated a sickly yellow glow. Our waiter was charming and knowledgable; the chef was jolly and proud of his work. Things were a bit slow, which was surprising given the superior nature of the food. This place really deserves some attention from local foodies. Bill for three starters, two entrées and six glasses of wine was $100 before tip.
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