CERVEJARIA RAMIRO, LISBON - NO FRILLS, JUST THE SEA

It was not necessarily a pub that I had imagined as my ideal venue for dinner in Lisbon. Yet all the blogs, competent forums and critics highlighted one top target place not to miss out when in the city. As I later learned, even my favourite gastro-entity --Anthony Bourdain-- visited the place: Cervejaria Ramiro being one of the few restaurants he called on there. Before leaving, I had sent out the address to a Brazilian colleague of mine asking what if we had had a dinner there. He declared the place was 'nothing special', just average, but I had faith in it.

When dinner time came, I set off to reach the place with a pinch of doubt whether i really hit the jackpot with my choice that night in the Portuguese capital. If you're wondering about how life is in Lisbon, I can tell that you that you can walk hours and hours, uphill and downhill and get properly tired of it, but it is a bit wiser to use the old tram system crisscrossing the whole city, which is quite a usual sight for a Budapest resident. While for people from the rest of Europe or for American tourists it is a quite exotic experience. 

Good and even better districts / quarters come one after the other as we travel the city, but all are said to have been shabby, shanty-towns with a lot of pensioners living there a bit earlier. By now all of these areas have developed into a place swarming with young people, hippies, bohemians, artists and the prices rose accordingly. Lisbon is a super city, very pleasant, highly recommended to everybody.

Now back to Ramiro. The place is puritan and literally a bar. The only difference between a bar and this place is that here you can see huge aquariums filled with water all along the edge of the guest area between the kitchen and the tables. In those big water tanks lobsters, crabs and langoustines  swim about, together with some more exotic creatures from the sea. 


The menu is quite promising even at first sight. It is a long list of everything that lives and kicks about in the sea. It is important to note, though, that Ramiro specialises on crab and other crustaceans, basically hard-shelled things, so they don't have many / any fish.We place our order and ask the waiter what type of garnishes he would recommend; spinach, mixed salad, french fries or whatever... The waiter gives me a look as if I came from planet Mars and slowly shakes his head. Here you cannot find such superfluous things as these... only delicacies from the sea grilled or steamed in white wine. Nothing extra. A slice of lemon maybe. This simplicity feels promising, since it tells you a lot about the quality of the ingredients at hand. Prime quality gives you self-confidence and makes all the senseless extras redundant-  anything that can distract your attention from the main attraction.

Ham plate. Fat and flesh proportion per slice is ideal. Well cut. They do it so well on the Iberian Peninsula.   


 And the garnish that goes with every course....hm...What a garnish! Fresh, crispy bread basted with melted butter. I think it worked out better than spinach, especially when it came to mopping up the juices.



Gambas pil pil. Simple as it may seem, the proper proportions are hard to find. The right amount of  chili, garlic and oil. It is also about how the different tastes 'find each other' and open up in the small iron skillet. The shrimps can almost be be considered as accessories if the chili flavoured oil is good, suitable for dipping all your bread in. Mine was like that.




Small mussels, cockels like Vongole (littleneck clams) with coriander, garlic, oil, white wine and butter. Gorgeous. Some extra fun that it is not parsley, rather coriander that is sprinkled over the top.



King-crab: white and brown. The white meat is the one that can be gained from the claws with the help of hammers and pincers. The brown part can be found in the head with stronger sea-taste, and a creamy meat, which is basically from the liver and other internal organs. That is why the taste is more intense. For those who are stronger sea-taste fans, scooping such things up is a real orgy. White meat on the other hand has a more neutral taste.



Flame coloured carabinero crabs. The Palamos prawn -which I ate in Basque Country- was similar.It's basic trait is that --when stripped of its shell-- chewing on its white meat you feel a heavenly sweet taste. Almost melts in our mouth. Sea, but sweet.




Giant lobster grilled. This was also tasty, the white meat a bit sweet, properly tight after grilling. But it could not catch up with the carabinero.You can't really describe much about this meal, because the ingredients, the crustaceans themselves, the masters at the grilling station and the slice of lemon served with the dishes does not require any longer description. After my adventures in Basque Country and my detour in Portugal I can increasingly appreciate this minimalist, puritan cuisine, which intends to make the most out of simple raw materials without any twists. And what's more I have an intensifying crave for richer and deeper sea tastes: a crab head that can be sucked out,  the brown meat of a king crab, the oiliest smoked fish and such things......

Overall: 9/10 
Cervejaria Ramiro
Lisbon

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