My, my – Casa Lisboa’s been busy, and in keeping its menu fresh and its kitchen on its toes, the eatery has launched a brand-new seasonal menu to celebrate the flavours of the former Portuguese colonies. All aboard The Taste of Lusitania, with this seven-course dinner voyage placing a focus on the blending of regional delicacies and flavours. The menu is available until 31 August 2018 on Monday–Thursday. Last chance, everyone!
We started our journey on the tiny island of Madeira off the north-west African coast, best known for producing football phenomenon Cristiano Ronaldo – but focus, people, we’re here for the food and drink. The poncha, unique to this Portuguese overseas province, is a mixture of aguardiente – a seriously strong wine spirit – and honey and lemon juice, but Casa Lisboa serves its version with passion fruit and syrup. Sweet and slightly tangy, the flavours encouraged mellow sipping well suited to the dishes that followed.
For our next destination, we dipped our toes into the Atlantic and stretched our way over to Angola, while keeping one foot firmly planted in Madeira. Chicken muamba is an aromatic chicken stew steeped in Central African history, but the Angolan preparation of it has since adopted Portuguese cooking techniques into its preparation. Garlic, paprika and chilli play the main roles here, bringing out the flavours of the marinated and pan-fried chicken. It’s then left to boil with pumpkin and cassava in a broth. Tender and fragrant, our chicken muamba was served with homemade cassava crisps, which proved to be the perfect scooping vessels. Madeira’s plump milho frito, a deep-fried cornmeal snack similar to Italian polenta, awaited us next, and we indulged in these moist little cakes flecked with chopped kale.
We travelled back to Madeira for the Atlantic swordfish tartare, a familiar face at Casa Lisboa that we look forward to every time we visit. Uniting fresh swordfish and a bell pepper sauce, Chef Fábio serves this maritime delight with a topping of avocado purée, red onion and lime juice. Spooning up the tartare with a rustic piece of thick, crunchy homemade taco is a must – we wouldn’t mind an additional piece next time! Our journey at sea continued with the humble clams in coconut milk, a dish as understated in its name and appearance as it was utterly moreish. Inspired by the cuisine of Goa, the clams were sautéed with garlic and onion and doused in coconut milk. A smattering of white pepper and coriander cut through the sweet and light coconut clams to give the dish a sharper edge.
On we went to Brazil to taste the fish and seafood moqueca, a medley of fried black cod, octopus and shrimp in a thick seafood sauce. We came across red pepper, red onion, green onion and tomato in this broth made of shrimp and fish bones, which we mopped up with the mochi-like lumps of pirão that cushioned the cod. Truth be told, the chewy, cake-like texture of the pirão wasn’t quite our thing, but there was no faulting the perfectly cooked fish that flaked away at the slightest touch.
Our ship seemed to be taking a zigzag route as we navigated back to Mozambique in Africa, to the birthplace of piri-piri chicken. Chef Fábio kicked things up a notch here, and we were treated to an exquisite piri-piri quail that was marinated for 48 hours before it even touched the roaster. Rosemary, thyme, chilli, honey and Portuguese white wine came together to create a smoky flavour, complete with a crisp skin and juicy meat that fell off the bone.
Getting dizzy yet? We’re taking this ship and steering it all the way back to Asia, to our neighbour Macau and its world-famous pork buns, which are the offspring of the Portuguese snack bifana. The garlic and white wine-glazed black Ibérico pork was cooked sous-vide for two hours before roasting, served in a toasted bun with a sweet basil and onion relish. Black pepper and mustard were infused with the pork to give it a sharp edge, and we devoured this porcine parcel.
With a heavy heart (and stomach), we made our way back to Portugal to land anew in Madeira and the Azores for a round of baby banana flambée and pineapple ravioli, a signature of Casa Lisboa. The baby bananas, reduced in Madeiran wine and cooked with caramel, were buttery in texture and sweet in taste, and a dollop of ice cream and some sliced fig created a sensational contrast between hot and cold. The ravioli, on the other hand, was all about the tang of the pineapple, served in paper-thin slices with homemade pistachio sponge cake pillows in the centre that soaked up all the lovely, syrupy juices of the fruit.
What an overwhelming voyage! We seemed to have travelled the world over in two hours, and these unique regional dishes – such a rarity in Hong Kong – were a treat. Despite the far-flung origins and colonial influences, Chef Fábio has skilfully managed to curate a menu that exudes an exotic air yet that feels wholly Portuguese and at home at Casa Lisboa.
2/F, Parekh House, 63 Wyndham Street, Central, 2905 1168
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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