This is the fourth in a series of five posts about visiting Lisbon in early June.
Overview: Train from Cais do Sodre station to seaside resort town of Cascais, bus to historic mountaintop town of Sintra, train back to Lisbon’s main train station. Lunch in Cascais at Jardim dos Frangos and dinner back in Lisbon at Sea Me.
Day Four: Walk
No, we’re not in Lisbon anymore. By Day Four — Friday — we were ready for a little outing. Two places nearby Lisbon and worth visiting are the seaside resort of Cascais and the mountaintop town of Sintra. Both are easily accessible from Lisbon in a single day.
The first order of business was to seek out Lisbon’s principal food market, Mercado da Ribeira. Lisbon is not filled with picturesque outdoor food markets. There are many neighborhood hole-in-the-wall shops stocked with vegetable basics, as well as more substantial produce stores and small supermarkets on main streets. Lisbon may well have larger supermarkets, but none that we came across. The main produce market, pictured above, is located across a wide avenue that runs adjacent to the river and across from the transportation hub of Cais do Sodre. While the Festival of St. Anthony that began in earnest on Thursday night contributed to the vibrancy of after dark street life, the national holiday that occurred on Friday resulted in a closed market. Since visiting food markets is one of my favorite activities, the inability to get inside Mercado da Ribeira was a disappointment.
Travel from Lisbon to Cascais is quick and simple. You get a comfortable commuter train from Cais do Sodre. Trains run frequently and the ride is about forty minutes. From Cascais to Sintra was about an hour bus ride. We returned to Lisbon on the train in less that an hour.
Though only thirty kilometers from Lisbon, Cascais has the distinctive feel of the beach.
Across the street from the train station is the start of a series of compact pedestrian avenues that wind through touristy shops.
Lisbon has a unique quality of Lisbon-ness. You get a sense that this could only be Lisbon. Cascais, on the other hand, feels like it could be almost anywhere — a beach community with charming shops aimed at tourists.
Perfectly pleasant. Not much more.
Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, wide sandy beaches abound.
Cascais was once a little fishing village. Today, fishing boats share the harbor with pleasure craft.
On the point across the harbor is a fortress whose origins date to the Middle Ages.
The fortress was built as a strategic outpost to defend Lisbon.
After spending a few hours wandering through Cascais and having a pleasant lunch, we went to the bus station at the base of the small indoor shopping mall on the opposite side of the train station. Buses leave frequently and the ride to Sintra is just under an hour.
The bus makes frequent stops as it winds its way first along the coast and then up into the mountains north of Cascais. Along the way we passed an outdoor produce market along the side of the road. You are taking what is essentially a commuter bus and part of the interest of the ride, in addition to the scenic beauty, is stopping in the small towns that dot the road as folks get on and off the bus.
Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site by virtue of its 19th Century Romantic architecture.
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived and yours truly was pretty beat. The prior three days of enthusiastic walking up and down and up the hills of Lisbon and our late night fado adventure had taken a toll. So by the time we arrived in Sintra, the idea of walking up what looked like a pretty steep hill to some of Sintra’s vintage sites was more than I was willing to do. The rest of our little group did not protest. So instead of roaming Sintra, we found a stylish restaurant and enjoyed a cool beverage and sweet cake. A short walk to the train station and the forty minute trip back to Lisbon with no regrets. It was good to get out of Lisbon for the day, the seaside was pleasant, and the bus ride to Sintra scenic. As to Sintra itself? Perhaps more of it on another trip.
Unlike the scenic bus ride from Cascais to Sintra, the train from Sintra to Lisbon went through the gritty exurbs and suburbs of metropolitan Lisbon. It is true that my enthusiasm for this day was not what is was for Days One through Three. But the decision to take a day trip, the experience taking the train and bus, spending time at a seaside town and at least getting a brief glimpse of Sintra were all positive. Overall, it was a good day. If we were to do this again we would get an earlier start to the day as we ran out of steam in Sintra.
While our trip started at the Cais do Sodre train station, it ended at Rossio station at the edge of Baixa. From there we walked up the hill into Bairro Alto some R & R before dinner.
Day Four Eat
Overview: At outdoor lunch at Jardin dos Frangos in Cascais and dinner in Lisbon at Sea Me.
Jardin dos Frangos — literal translation: Garden of Chicken — is located on the edge of “downtown Cascais,” the central tourist area.
Jardin dos Frangos’s specialty is Chicken Piri Piri. Chicken Piri Piri has African roots and comes to Portugal via Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. Classically in making Chicken Piri Piri the chicken is marinated in a mix of herbs and crushed hot chiles and then grilled. At Jardin dos Frangos, the chicken is simply grilled au natural and the Piri Piri comes via a bottle of chile-infused oil.
Among the other items we sampled were the salt cod fritters and grilled octopus. Seated outdoors under clear blue skies and with pleasant wine and beer to accompany our meal, it added up to a totally pleasant lunch. Lunch was $30 per person — with the works.
Here is a video of Jardim dos Frangos I found on U-Tube.
Jardim dos Frangos
Grande Guerra , 178, Cascais
Dinner at Sea Me
After after a very long day, we wanted an informal and relatively uncomplicated dinner. Staying close to home also was a dining criteria. We settled on Sea Me, a short walk from our apartment. Officially, Sea Me is at the edge of Bairro Alto, though it identifies itself as being located in the more chic Chaido neighborhood. Sea Me is a strange name for a restaurant in Lisbon that bills itself as a Peixaria Moderna — or modern seafood restaurant.
On this Friday evening of a holiday weekend, we stepped into a stylish and bustling dining room. In the rear is a sushi bar and fresh fish on ice reminiscent of Mercado do Peixe — the very traditional seafood restaurant where we had lunch on Day Two. There is also an open kitchen.
True to its billing, Sea Me’s elements and setting combine to be the very model of a modern seafood restaurant. As with all of the restaurants we visited, a menu in English is available. Star billing went to the sushi items. We began with Tuna Tataki (lightly seared) with Wasabi Ice Cream and Three Generations of Salmon Rolls — salmon eggs, raw salmon and roasted salmon. The wasabi ice cream was savory and packed a pleasant kick. Maybe the highlight of the dinner. The Three Generations of Salmon was unremarkable. If you end up using these posts as a guide, order the former and skip the latter.
As Noah is now working the tempura station at Morimoto, we wanted to try Sea Me’s tempura. Fine. Not remarkable. We also shared two Panko-crusted Deep-fried Rolls. The roll on the left is Acapulco Tuna with Peppermint & Pineapple and the one on the right will remain unidentified. In general, my preference is for more traditional, less showy sushi.
Next came a platter of Assorted Sashimi and a platter of Half-cured Codfish with House Seasonings. Both were fine if unremarkable.
We didn’t stick just to items from the sushi bar. Here are Seared Scallops with Mango & “Fleur de Sel.” Scallops and fruit are not my favorite combination, but since I was in charge of ordering for the table, I have no one to blame for this selection other than myself.
A sucker for sausage in any form, I found the Grilled Seafood Sausage to be excellent.
My guess is that you could deep-fry an old sock and I would like it. That is not to suggest that Sea Me’s Ninja Seafood Fritters has any relationship to an old sock; only that they were deep-fried and therefore, my standard of excellence was not that high. They came with a sweet-sour ponzu sauce.
We shared two desserts including a Portuguese Creme Brulle — hard to tell what made it Portuguese — and Three Ice Creams: Pumpkin, Ferre Roche (chocolate) and Sweet Rice. The playful presentation included a sprig of rosemary, a thin cookies and a fresh gooseberry.
Portuguese wines included a 2010 Alvarinho from Muros de Melagaco; a 2009 Quinta de Bacalha, a white blend of semillion, alvarinho and sauvignon blanc; and a 1998 Madeira from H.M. Borges.
Dinner at Sea Me with beer, wine and gratuity was $75US per person. So what did I think? Service was perfunctory, the food mostly very good though not extraordinary. I liked the menu variety with its mix of sushi-inspired dishes and modern seafood dishes though it added up to nothing that you would not experience in Asian-Japanese fusion restaurants across the planet. There was nothing especially Portuguese in its approach. There were restaurants that we didn’t try that I would go to before I went back to Sea Me. But that is not to say that Sea Me was disappointing. Given that I don’t know how good other interesting Lisbon restaurants are, I have no problem recommending Sea Me. While it was not trying to be 100 Maneiras or Alma, with their carefully orchestrated tasting menus, I found those restaurants distinctive and memorable in a way that Sea Me was not. Here is a link to a NY Times article that covers several of the restaurants we visited and several that we did not. Lisbon’s Culinary Golden Age?
Sea Me Peixaria
Rua do Loreto, 21, Bairro Alto
Coming on Day Five: Our Day Five walk was spent backtracking over some of the same neighborhoods covered on Days One through Four. There surely were other neighborhoods to visit, but we had seen enough. Instead of re-capping our Day Five walk, Day Five’s post will focus on Lisbon’s ceramic wall tiles and graffiti. It will be mostly images with not much narrative and I hope you enjoy the photos. On Day Five we had an ordinary lunch at an outdoor cafe on the wide plaza along the river in Baixa. For dinner, we returned to 100 Maneiras. I will briefly review dinner at 100 Maneiras but to do so at length would be repetitive.
Thank you for visiting,
Your At Home Coach
P.S. I was on the 10! Show last Thursday plugging Franklin Foodworks, our restaurant at The Franklin Institute and the current Mummies exhibit. Naturally enough given Mummies, I demonstrated a wrap. Here is the link.