“There is only one Pedro Lemos”

“There is only one Pedro Lemos” could very well be the title of the following text; we can say this about many chefs, but not so much when we look at the national panorama. I had followed Pedro Lemos’ work for many years, largely because of the audacity of having named his first solo restaurant after him when fine dining was a mirage in Porto. Pedro brought much more than “Snacks, wines and goodies”; he gathered the whole city – including those looking for a more cosmopolitan and trendy restaurant – around him, his risky proposals, and his deep flavors.

Changes, struggles, ups and downs, and a lot of perseverance brought the first Michelin star and, with it, stability and a more informed international clientele (it took too long, as is the hallmark of our Spanish inspectors), new adventures, new restaurants, more daring dishes and to a recent innovation in his kitchen, the small amuse bouche.

And after a short wait, we started dinner exactly with these novelties accompanied by a glass of Murganheira Grande Reserva 2005, with a unique elegance and complex aging notes that place it among the good national sparkling wines.

The amuse bouche

So we started with crab bao, cod blini, smoked duck and nori tartlet, and mushroom and quail egg macaron, all aesthetically impeccable. Still, none of them proved to be unforgettable, with small flaws in the composition making some of the flavors or textures get lost.

Mackerel, Lettuce, and Ginger
Here the case changes completely, allowing us to truly enter Pedro Lemos’ cuisine, increasingly refined and influenced by Asian cuisine – I well remember a dish of tuna and wasabi, where I probably had my first notion of this influence – the notes fresh combined with the fat and richness of the blue fish made this a wonderful first moment.

A high note for the unexpected cocktail with which we harmonized the dish based on white port, gin, mezcal, and shiso cordial that worked perfectly with the plate and which served a little more chilled could be in any bar with international awards.

Duck foie gras, quince and brioche
This is the “I could eat this all my life” moment on Pedro Lemos’ menus, a dish that has always been with him and that I remember in all its versions, from the small parallelepiped with macaron, honey, and spice bread. The shapes and accompaniments have changed, freshly baked brioche has appeared, and in this version, quince in different textures to ensure we see all their technical repertoire. What doesn’t change is the caramelized foie mousse, full of flavor and silky texture. It will certainly be the best foie in the country!

In the glass was, and well, a Barbeito Ribeiro Real Verdelho 1981, the perfect Portuguese companion for the foie, here in a smooth textured flask, where the flavors of caramel and lemon and a slight smokiness heightened by the delicious acidity proved to be a great companion for the foie.

Eel, kimchi, macadamia, and sprouts
A dish that marks a visual change and a combination of elements, flavors, and textures compared to what Pedro Lemos had already accustomed us to. The eel and the sauce (delicious) stand out in a great combination of elements, with earthy notes combining well with fresher and more acidic flavors.

Algarve prawn, sea urchin, and chawanmushi
Once again, French and Japanese cuisine gain harmony in a breathtaking dish. All faultless with the silky chawanmushi, the raw gamba, and the fried heads, but where the highlight was, as usual, the sauce! Ladies and gentlemen, what a sauce! There should have been jars of this sauce to bring home at the end of dinner as a souvenir. The dish reminded me of a classic by Arnaud Lallement in his Assiette Champenoise(*** Michelin), but it surpassed its depth of flavour.

To harmonize – or to drink – that I was the one who took the bottle, without thinking or knowing what I was going to eat, was one of those producers that I keep in my heart, Ramonet Saint Aubin Premier Cru “En Remilly” 2016, the master of Chassagne-Montrachet which here shows a complex chardonnay, marked by the good wood with the oxidative notes that characterize it, but still an elegance that allowed it to float well on the dishes.

Monkfish, Pumpkin, and Consomme
Yet another example of the new aesthetic side, with more elements and more technical details and textures, here with a shiny monkfish at its perfect point (I could write an article about the suffering it is to see this fish treated so poorly in our kitchens) well combined with the different elements, where once again, the sauce, or in this case the broth, is highlighted. Another great dish!

Here, they decided to make some risky moves bringing the wine I got for the next dish, a 2016 Niepoort Charme whose finesse and delicate tannins allowed a perfect accompaniment to the fish.

Beef, chickpeas, and ranch dressing
Looking at the description of the dish, it would be difficult to imagine the delicacy and elegance that would follow, beef in different textures, including a paste similar to tortellini, grain, emulsions, and other elements, which result in a bomb of flavor that is difficult to stop eating. A commandment from Pedro Lemos telling his colleagues that you don’t need wagyu or old mountain beef sirloin to create a perfect meat dish.

Pineapple, muscat, and citronella
For a first dessert, the freshness of pineapple and citronella combine with the sweet, ripe, and spicy notes of muscat. A great turning point on the menu.

Chocolate, coffee, and rum
I must confess that when I looked at the menu, I felt a certain nostalgia for a possible version 10.0 of the “Banana, sago e Madeira” with which Pedro Lemos so often ended his menu. Since he is not passionate about the sweet stage, we had two examples of great level here. Coffee is in the right measure to enhance the flavor of chocolate, present here in different and tasty textures. Simple and effective.

The pairing ended with 40 Year Old Tawny Dow’s, which, although not the most obvious companion for chocolate, positioned itself very well alongside the notes of coffee and rum, adding notes of dried fruit.

Also noteworthy is the service, which despite a slow start, quickly got into line and continued at a good pace. It is always difficult to evaluate the service when it’s carried out by new people in a restaurant with which we have some history, at the risk of being unfair due to the force of the past… but here everything went with excellence and good presentation.

To finish off without too much artifice, a madeleine served as a petit four, but not just any madeleine, freshly baked, sweet in just the right measure, and with a glowing belly. Perfect!

Less positive, only the bread, the least impressive and singular element on the menu, specially considering the sauces we tasted here, which deserved to be paired with a bread of superior quality.

Final remarks
Pedro Lemos presents his menu with the phrase, “If I feel like I can’t adapt to this world, it’s because I was born to create mine.” – we could talk about ego and pretentiousness. Still, the truth is that those who follow his work (it’s not worth saying that they follow without sitting at his table) know that Pedro Lemos rarely exposes himself or shows his work on social networks or through communication agencies. For me, the world he refers to is a world against the current… more classic in its gastronomic genesis, but simultaneously a breath of fresh air. Yes, what I’ve just written may seem like a paradox. Still, a menu with dishes that I can’t associate with other “Instagrams,” without caviar, without scarlet prawns or wagyu (as much as I love these ingredients), is always a breath of joy that combats the boredom that can often be a tasting menu.

Saying that Pedro Lemos will perhaps be the best saucier in Portugal may seem reductive for many, but for me it is a reason for pleasure and pride in a restaurant where I always leave with the feeling that I should visit it more often, so yes, “Pedro Lemos there’s only one!”

Prices from 120€ (without wine)
Rua do Padre Luís Cabral, 974 – Porto

Photos: Flavors & Senses
Text: João Oliveira
No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.