If you’re a foodie like me, eating at a Michelin star restaurant is a must for your bucket list. Michelin stars are an international benchmark that indicate restaurants with dishes of exceptional quality. You may be wondering why a gourmet restaurant rating system shares a name with a brand of tires. The Michelin Tire company actually started a series of guidebooks to encourage people to go on roadtrips (and buy their tires). What a genius marketing idea! This developed into anonymous restaurant reviews, which are now used to determine eligibility for Michelin stars.
When researching restaurants to check out on my trip to Portugal, we came across Belcanto. It’s a two-star Michelin star restaurant in Lisbon that serves up authentic Portuguese food. I would normally complain that the prices were too exorbitant to even consider, but one of my friends was desperate to eat at what’s been considered one of the 100 best restaurants in the world. We attempted to make a dinner reservation but were only to get a table at lunchtime. They have the exact same menu for their lunch service, so we booked ourselves in.
When we showed up at the restaurant, we had to knock on a giant door knocker to get let in. The restaurant was quite simple inside with minimal decorations. Maybe there is more of an ambiance during the evening service? We were presented with the menu and began to consider our options. We could order dishes à la carte, or we could try one of the tasting menus. They had the Evolution Menu for €185, which is a complete surprise because the chef just makes whatever he feels like that day. We decided to go with the Lisbon menu, which was €165 and consisted of 8 dishes. In order to try one of the tasting menus, everyone at your table has to order the same thing. Our lunch ended up taking about three hours, so it makes sense because you wouldn’t want to be waiting around for hours watching your friend eat.
The first course that came out was a dry martini with an exploding olive. I’m not sure what exactly the olive was, but when I bit into it, a wave of olive flavour came over my mouth.
The next course was a plate of what looked like pebbles. Each person was served a plate with 3 rocks. The server explained that two of them were edible, and one was actually a pebble for comparison. He told us which ones were edible, and told us to be careful not to bite into the actual rock. The pebbles contained olive oil which was flavoured with various herbs. The third course was crispy chicken skin with corn and herbs. Quite a normal dish compared to the previous dishes (or “moment”s as our server liked to call them).
After our third course was taken away, we were presented with bouquets of flowers. Each bouquet had tuna tartar rolls hidden in them.
The next course was one of my favourites – bread and butter. Our server gave us an explanation of all of the different types of bread – each type of bread originated from a different region in Portugal. There were three types of butter – herb butter, sausage butter, and black truffle butter. The butter spread onto my olive bread like paint.
Up next was a traditional goose egg encrusted in gold. I must be honest – I’m not a huge fan of eggs, so I was a little nervous about this dish. This dish was surprisingly delicious and might have cured me of my egg aversion.
Our seafood course was next. We had sea bass that was cooked in seawater. This was probably one of the least memorable dishes from the experience.
Cozido à Portuguesa (a traditional Portuguese stew) was next up. The chef put a twist on it and puréed the meat and vegetables. It was more like a soup with a piece of pork fat in the middle. I think we were supposed to eat that part, but we avoided.
Our final entrée course was suckling pig (baby pig that has only eaten its mother’s milk). This is a delicacy in Iberia, so I was excited to try it in Portugal. It was served as a square, thin, crispy piece of pork with a little baggy of chips (it’s a tradition to eat suckling pig with potato chips in Portugal). They brought out this little pot of sauce and a brush for us to paint onto our pork. The server also informed us that the bag that the chips came in was edible!
Pre-dessert was a pork pudding with wasabi and raspberry sorbet. I loved the flavour combination of raspberry and wasabi!
Dessert was the pièce de résistance. It was mandarin filled with mandarin foam, served with mandarin sorbet.
There was a surprise post-dessert treat, which consisted of a variety of sweets. My favourite was the peanut chocolate, which was shaped to look exactly like a peanut. They also had some jelly candies and marshmallows.
My boyfriend and I decided to splurge and get the wine pairings. It was three wines for €70 a person. We had a white wine to start out for the poultry and seafood, a red wine for the pork, and a dessert wine to finish. The wine was pretty free-flowing, and they topped me up when I finished my glass before the next tasting started.
The service we received was impeccable. Our servers wore white gloves and had to be synchronized when serving our food and clearing the table. On my trip to the bathroom, I came across dental sets so I could brush my teeth after lunch. It was such great entertainment while we were enjoying our lunch. The whole lunch ended up costing me about €350 for me and my boyfriend. This may seem like a ridiculous amount, but it really was a once in a lifetime experience.
Although I likely won’t make a lunch like this a part of my regular routine, I definitely want to try more fine dining experiences around the world (anyone have any recommendation for a three-star Michelin restaurant?). I also discovered my new dream career – a Michelin guide inspector.