O Paparico can seat about 36 people in a couple rooms and has been open for 11 years. The large white cloth covered tables have an ecru floor drape and are nicely spread apart and accompanied by small service tables. After you knock on the door, the Butler lets you in and there is a small comfortable entry room with a bar counter and leather furniture for you to wait for your table. Lights are lowered and the low wood ceiling works well with the stone walls and tile floor. Soft music plays in the background and lots of candles and photos on the walls add to the cozy atmosphere. Noise is not an issue for conversations. The menu is presented in an envelope you must open to study the 3 tasting menu choices. All are surprise menus so you chose between vegetarian, Portuguese or regional themes and they also offer optional wine pairings and a cheese course supplement. All the menus change every couple weeks. Originally they offered a la carte options but abandoned that choice several years ago. Pacing and portion control were both good and the staff spoke excellent English.
As we looked through the menu choices we enjoyed a nicely made Negroni cocktail. We chose the Portugalidade menu, which would highlight Portuguese cuisine and ordered our own wine.
The menu started with “Pedrês Chicken Broth”, a chicken egg yolk on egg white pearls and then surrounded by chicken broth. It was supposed to be one of the oldest soups in Portugal. The broth was well flavored and the egg whites were almost chewy. It was simple yet great.
A picnic basket was the brought out with a little checkered cloth for the table. Inside, from left to right were the following: “Crustacean Tartar” – tartar of shellfish between two crisp crackers and topped with caviar / “Á Bordalesa Lamprey Pie” – pie of lamprey (fish from the river bottom) that was cooked in red wine with vinegar gel on top / “Courato” (pork skin) / “Portuguese Stew” – cashew stew of pork topped with potato / “Liver Terrine” – dip and crisps. The pie had a nice crust and the vinegar topping was quite tart. The interior was chewy with lots of flavor and texture in this bite. The pork skin was cooked in beef sauce and was totally crisp and good. The pork stew was mixed with cabbage, rice and vegetables and stuffed in a very crisp pastry shell and then topped with light mashed potato. The filling had a good strong flavor. The dip was a veal liver terrine with a covering of port wine. The herbs and olive oil crackers with it were really thin and crisp. You could spread the terrine on the crisp for an excellent bite.
Bread service included a black pork belly bread which is commonly a larger size but this one was made as an individual loaf. Also there was a wedge of sour dough bread that was freshly baked with an amazing crust and lovely air pockets. They were accompanied by olive oil, a salted cod tapenade, green olive tapenade and goat milk butter. The breads were both good on their own.
Xerém de Camarão or Xerém with shrimp was made with shrimp from the Portugal coast. They were on a really runny polenta and surrounded by a polenta sauce. The sweet raw shrimp were accented with a hint of cilantro. This was a great combination of flavors.
Lula á Cardeal was squid stuffed with potato and topped with nutmeg, toasted butter foam and grated octopus roe. The tender tiny squid body was stuffed with tender chunks of potato. The tentacles were separated from the body but the foam disguised the separation. It was totally fresh and lovely.
Arroz de Lavagante Azul was Blue Lobster with “Malandrinho” Rice and was made with slow cooked rice, topped with the foam of cooking blue lobster heads. A piece of lobster was in the middle of the slightly spicy broth. It was all very good.
Bacalhau e Centeio was salted cod that was wrapped with turnip greens and topped with crisps of rye bread in a cornbread broth. You were to eat a bit of broth with each bite. The nice crisp breads went well with the large flake cod fish. The fish piece was from the loin of the cod and very moist and they were right, it was best when eaten with some of the broth.
Puré de Forno e Trufa Negra was Oven Puree with Black Truffle. It was a pot of corn mash with mashed potatoes and onion stew that was brought to the table and dished onto each plate. It had been seasoned with red wine, spices and then a bone marrow sauce was poured alongside it. It was further garnished with some black truffle. It was a mildly flavored dish but had lots of textures. The cornmeal gave it grit and the truffle gave it a bit of chewiness. The savory onions brought it all together. It was very good.
Coelho á Cacador – Hunter style rabbit was served with mushrooms, parsnips, asparagus and mustard seed. It was finished with the juice from cooking rabbit and red wine. The rabbit was moist, good and perfectly cooked. It blended well with all the other ingredients.
A sorbet of Granny Smith apples was mixed with sweet lemon granita and purée of apple that had been ripened for 2 months. It was tart and almost tasted like pie. It was cold with lots of flavors and textures. A very good pre-dessert.
Dessert was Ovo de Inspiracão Conventual or Egg of Conventual Inspiration. It was an egg yolk with smoked ham served in a glass hen. The topping of a crumble of cream was on egg yolk noodles. Inside the white ball was frozen milk. This was a great blending of tastes and textures.
The final treats were served in a girls jewelry box complete with spinning ballerina. Inside were an apple and chocolate topped ball, lemon macaron, caramel tart, passion fruit chocolate bon bon, and seedy and buttery biscuit. The caramel tart was gooey goodness – like butterscotch with a buttery crust. A total yum. The macaron was tart. The seedy biscuit was crisp and good. The apple was mostly chocolate flavor. We accompanied the treats by trying two Madeira wines. It was a nice finish to a fine meal.
They sent us with a parting gift of a couple candies to take with you and an menu of the evening’s meal.