So excited for a Portuguese restaurant to open at last in San Francisco, where Italian and Spanish dominate dining choices.
Before Uma Casa, options for a culinary dejavu of the Land of the Explorers were available only in Sonoma, a bakery in Hayward and a breakfast spot in the Mission District, far as we’ve known. To soothe longing for the simply grilled with assertive seasoning typical of and around Lisbon was a challenge.
Last night we got to revisit the country we happily “discovered” last fall at this new attraction on Church Street.
From the moment we walked through the draped entryway, we met good vibes, lots of smiles, glorious laughter enveloped in sexy lighting, positive prelude to our post-Valentine, pre-Year of the Dog double-date.
The menu was crafted to be shared, announced our most amiable server David. And portions did allow us to partake of each order, family-style.
Complimentary house-made potato chips with piri-piri (Portuguese peppers)dip arrived in lieu of bread (available on order with choricou or sausage butter; in Portugal, rolls come to table with sardine or tuna pate and butter for 1 euro per diner).
The list is divided by Snacks, Seafood, Soups/Salads, Small Plates and Large Plates.
Two crisp turnovers revealed chopped shrimp with piri piri aioli and a knob of greens.
Our two salads were delicious: Roasted beets and butternut squash scented with a cumin vinaigrette had farro and radish for crunch. Sao Jorge cheese and pear slivers in port dressing complemented the peppery arugula.
The small plates were larger than most, we were glad we had decided to split one entree. We had 2 orders of Polvo Na Chapa, a most tender tentacle of octopus charred outside, juicy inside, nestled on white beans both creamy and al dente, counterpointed by pickled peppers.
M traveled back to the Alentejo, Portugal’s’ coastal area, with his Costaleta A Alentejana - pan-roasted pork chops with clams and aromatics.
K had a Portuguese favorite, Frango Churrasco or garlicky grilled chicken.
My Peixe (fish) was a visual treat as well: 2 chunks of crusty striped bass towered over a slab of sweet potato moated with sautéed greens. It satisfied all my taste buds.
The eloquent seasoning and rich sauces demanded neutrality, so we surrendered to the call of the carb and ordered bread, with which we cleaned our plates.
For dessert, we shared an apple tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. For an exclamation point, a pastel de nata, to compare to the one we had at Jeronimos Monastery in the Belem District. The SF version had a sweeter custard, less flaky pastry. Cinnamon on the side, as in the mother country.
They serve espresso, no other coffee. And a long list of port, but of course.
With 2 beers, 2 glasses of wine, a non-al drink, our tab was $250. Great deal for sharing good vibes, delicious food, friendly service with the chef walking around to say hi, even handing over the piri piri I requested. By the time we left Thursday night, the bar on the other side of the room was three-deep.
Tip 1: Don’t let the website photos fool you: Energy is high here, patrons speak up, laugh, enjoy themselves.
Tip 2: Check our the 3-course prix-fixe dinner. Unheard of at $33.
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