September 23, 2009

Sacrificing a pig

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There was a big gathering of chefs and foodies tonight, and a tiny suckling piglet no more than 2 weeks old was sacrificed to satisfy our appetites.  The venue of this ritual?  Nino's Cozinha.

The first to arrive was the pig - leitão assado no forno - which we pre-ordered.  I'm always happy to have roast pig, especially with that yummy layer of fat and crispy crackling.  But honestly, this isn't anywhere near the best pig I've had, and better value could be had elsewhere.  As in my last visit, I thoroughly enjoyed nibbling on an ear - which has puffed up like a soufflé potato chip...

A series of starters came next.  Bacalhao à braz remains one of my favorites.  It was already cold by the time I finished the pig and got around to it, but I still loved it.  The fragrance of crispy fried potato strips stir-fried with onions, eggs and bacalhao... Mmm mmm good!

Dobradinha com grão de bico guisado - the chickpea stew with ox tripe, chouriço and morcilla was delicious, with a base made from tomato and sweet peppers.  How can I say no to tripe and blood sausage?

Lulas asado na panela com alho cebola e picante - the sauteéd squid was very fresh and delicious, with the light taste of olive oil and "salsa".

Pasteis de bacalhao - these deep-fried balls of shredded bacalhao and potato mash are another favorite of mine.  I wish I had more than one of these, though...

Amêijoas à moda de casa - this is the usual clams in white wine sauce, but I only had one little clam...

Frango assado com piri piri - today's piri piri chicken was disappointing.  There wasn't enough sauce, and even then the sauce just didn't have enough kick.  My tongue was supposed to go numb from the Sichuan peppercorns!  Others at the table agreed with me, and there was lots of chicken leftover.

Rabo de boi guisado - the oxtail was pretty good.  The meat wasn't falling off the bone, and instead was slightly chewy.  I liked the tomato and carrot-based sauce.

Repolho branco assado na panela com bacalhao e alho - I love cabbage, garlic and bacalhao separately, and the combination of all three is even better!

Finally, two claypots of camarao com pimenta no forno - in my opinion the best dish in the house.  The mix of green, white and black peppercorns from Morocco was just amazingly fragrant.  The prawns today were much larger than the ones I had before, perhaps they chose to use different types due to seasonality.  The prawns were first pan-fried, then loaded into the claypots with the peppercorns and baked at 300 degrees.  The pan-fried garlic here was damn good, too.  One of my friends decided to break apart some of the grissinis and bury them in the peppercorns, letting the flavors infuse into the sticks. I should have tried one of them...

I was never very impressed with their desserts, so I decided to share a small piece of the lemon tart and passed on the serradura.

Amazingly the 11 of us only managed to drink two bottles of wine.  The 2002 Kistler Pinot Noir Kistler Vineyard was smooth on the palate with good concentration.  The 2006 Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett had notes of lemon, minerals, a bit of plastic and was a little sweeter than I expected from a Kabinett.

We ended up having a lot of food leftover, which was a surprising and probably a function of the crowd eating less than they normally would.  No one even bothered to touch the costelas pimentão no forno. I think next time I will pass on the suckling pig, though...

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