Fine dining without the fuss
Claim to fame: An early exponent of high-level cooking in Lisbon with the pompousness removed
Reason to go: The mercurial Ljubomir Stanisic still succeeds in adding the salt of the earth to his fine dining experience
To look out for: 1991 Quinta do Poço do Lobo to pair with the pigeon dish
The name means ‘100 ways’ but also, if you take 100 (‘cem’) phonetically, ‘without a lot of fuss’ (‘sem maneiras’). This is worth mentioning as it says something about the history and philosophy of Ljubomir Stanisic, the chef. Fleeing his native Sarajevo in the late 1990s, he came to Lisbon as well as to serious cooking. In 2004 he opened the first 100 Maneiras, in Cascais (initially in partnership with none other than José Avillez). Four years and several awards later the restaurant went bust.
He then headed to Lisbon, shifting down a few gears before parking himself at a small restaurant in Bairro Alto bearing the same name, still fuming with creativity but less burdened by bling. And perhaps more importantly, inoculated against pompousness with a characteristic bad-boy sense of humor.
But let’s eat. First, the ‘neighborhood clothesline’: this amuse has opened the meal at 100 Maneiras for many years now (since the beginning?). Perhaps it will only change if and when the restaurant leaves Bairro Alto, as it pays homage to the small clotheslines outside the windows on buildings in Lisbon’s less exalted neighborhoods. The ‘clothes’ are crisp-thin pieces of dehydrated bacalhau (soaked to remove the salt first), to be dipped in coriander- or red pepper sauce.
Next is a ‘fake tomato’ propped on a sturdy aluminum hen’s leg. Filled with a pungent mix that includes sardine and topped with a real tomato stem, its powerful, salty flavor is a declaration of intent. And the next starter delivers: fried fish skin and red mullet with curry mayonnaise served on a cube of sardine and liver paste. Discordant but exhilarating, as Paolo Monelli said of pasta con le sarde back in the 30s. A ‘tomato cheesecake’ on cornbread crumbs, sprinkled with dried sepia sings more in unison, though the intensity of the tomato flavor again brings to mind Sicily and its potent sun-dried estratto tomato paste.
These dishes would turn most white wines into flower-vase water, but a Cova da Ursa chardonnay (one of the Portuguese pioneers of that grape) handles them with viscous aplomb. A scallop with grapes and lemon verbena foam dials down the flavor intensity and prepares the palate for a fish dish of grouper and Algarve shrimp with parsley sauce and bonito flakes. The choir has definitely warmed up now.
A refreshing palate cleanser precedes the meat dish: sundry parts of pigeon cooked in various ways, served with a crime scene-red beet sauce. Paired with a marvelous 1991 Bairrada red, Quinta do Poço do Lobo, this dish brings the meal down to earth in the most dramatic way.
Desserts of, respectively, cheese variations and foie-gras ice cream (which tastes more like nougat) are a tad rich. Service is friendly, accommodating and with a light touch throughout.