Temptations beneath tentacles
Claim to fame: A seafood-centric menu that attracts Lisbon’s beau monde
Reason to go: Ceviche that is guaranteed to satisfy connoisseurs
To look out for: Slammed from lunch to late at night, this is a no-resy restaurant
This is the place that made Kiko Martins. Here he has concocted perfection: a small, high-visibility bar and restaurant serving mainly trendy seafood to a public primed by sushi. The interior, with its emblematic suspended octopus, M. C. Escher-esque window shutters and bright white marble is brilliant in several ways. It suggests clinic-like hygiene (goes nicely with raw fish) and sets a well-lit stage for the colorful social spectacle forever unfolding here.
All of which might make the skeptical eater suspect food is not a priority. They needn’t worry. Kiko Martins’ attention to detail extends noticeably into dishes such as ‘ceviche puro’ (no new-fangled stuff), roast octopus and mashed potatoes darkened by sepia ink, with roasted onion and padrón pepper, plus pork rind, or a green gazpacho with goose-necked barnacles and razor clams. There’s always at least one meat dish on the menu as well, such as a beef tartare served in a taco, with horseradish cream. Desserts are similarly creative, as in a celery granita with pistachio cake, avocado syrup and apple foam.
As at his larger restaurant, O Asiático, don’t expect any pious reproductions of ‘authentic’ dishes (in this case Peruvian; sticklers will no doubt find fault even with the ‘ceviche puro’). Chef Kiko, as he calls himself, mixes freely if judiciously from his wide palette of cuisines, and likes to slip in a Portuguese reference here and there (that sepia ink in the mashed potatoes, for example). His skill at mixing things up is arguably what makes all of his restaurants stand out from the competition. Another differentiating factor is his consistent concern with service, so often a weak point among his would-be peers. And while we’re at it, why not mention his concern with high quality, fresh ingredients as well.
The wine list is short and not overly inspiring, but this is made up for by the pisco sour shaken in short order. It has achieved something of a cult following, and underlines A Cevicheria’s role as bar, too.