On an unassuming corner of the Príncipe Real neighbourhood sits Cevicheria, a restaurant dedicated to south-american cuisine, especially Peruvian tapas and Ceviche, headed by Portuguese Chef Kiko Martins.
A large door with bird-shaped hollows hides the small but impeccably decorated interior, just a few steps away from Príncipe Real’s main garden. Inside, a handful of tables are dutifully aligned along one of the walls of the restaurant, while the other wall harbours a half-moon-shaped bar/kitchen, where a few high chairs allow for a guests to sit at the counter, watching the staff work. A huge foam octopus hangs from the ceiling and serves as the space’s most unique design piece, while geometric blue tiles pave the floor.
Cevicheria, one of Lisbon’s greatest gastronomic gems
However, don’t let its nonchalant appearance fool you – Cevicheria is one of Lisbon’s greatest gastronomic gems, highlighting even further Príncipe Real’s statute as the city’s coolest new neighbourhood.
A window opens up to the outdoors, serving drinks to the queues that form outside waiting to be seated, as this small restaurant does not take reservations. Arrive very late for lunch or very early for dinner (early for dinner, in Portugal, means 7pm, mind you), and you should have no problem securing a table. Later than that and it fills up quickly. You might, however, actually enjoy waiting outside, as Cevicheria serves typical South American drinks through its window to the outside, and you won’t be disappointed. Pisco is the talk of the town right now, and for good reason – this typical drink made of peruvian aguardiente, lime juice, sugar syrup, egg whites and a dash of angostura bitter is perfect for Lisbon’s warm summer nights, and hanging out with crowds of locals that flock to Príncipe Real for a sunset drink is always an enjoyable experience.
Having opened its doors in the final days of 2014, Cevicheria is not exclusively a Peruvian restaurant, nor does the menu revolve solely around Ceviche. As is with Chef Kiko’s restaurants, he draws inspiration from his travels and summons ingredients and techniques from all over the world, including in this restaurant trends from as far and wide as Asia and South America, to as close to home as Portugal. Taking Peru and ceviche as a starting point, the menu includes 4 types of ceviches, but stretches to include 3 causes (another typical south-american dish), 2 quinotos (risottos, but with quinoa instead of rice), an empanada, a meat taco, a duck croquette and a mini-sandwich. However, none of the descriptions really do the dishes justice – you have to try them for yourself. In typical tapas fashion, the food here is best enjoyed when shared, and that’s why you can try about half of the menu at once; which is, truly, a huge plus.
The “pure” ceviche is our favourite of the bunch, with fish (grouper, corvina or permit) cooked in lime juice, accompanied by purple onion, malagueta pepper and sweet potato puree, and is, according to Chef Kiko, his interpretation of the original dish, and the closest to what you’d get in Peru. The others include one with codfish, where the Portuguese influence comes into play, and the lime juice is substituted by rosemary vinegar, with olives and chickpea puree, a salmon ceviche with mango and orange, bringing in the tropical influences and a more asian tuna ceviche, with algae and kimchi.
As he does with the ceviche, Chef Kiko plays around with flavours and textures in the causes – a typical dish comprising of potato puree, usually filled with tuna and eggs. One of the causes is also with codfish, another uses salmon, but our favourite uses european lobster, with black potato puree (normal puree with cuttlefish black ink) and avocado puree.
The menu also includes quinotos – quinoa cooked like a risotto. One with octopus, ham and peas, and another “sea quinoto”, our favourite, with algae, mussels, shrimp, fish and an oyster and algae foam.
To top it all off, and in typical Portuguese style, there’s a few snacks for those that are still peckish. The beef tartar taco (from Chef Kiko’s other restaurant, O Talho – Portuguese for Butcher Shop) is a life-changing experience – a serious contender for a spot in our favourite tapas ever. A mini-sandwich made of beef and shrimp steak is also available and is sure to please. It’s not really Peruvian, but that won’t really matter.
For dessert, there is some choice, but the highlight has to be the dulce de leche. There is quinotto with guava, there are textured fruits and there are chocolates from South America but boy does the dulce de leche take the prize here. Pleasing both purists and first-time dulce de leche consumers alike, this torta filled with dulce de leche, coconut cream and caramelized pineapple with rum, comes with a large spoonful of dulce de leche smeared onto the side of the plate, so you can enjoy it in its pure, unadulterated form – and it’s absolutely delicious. This will be the part of the meal you won’t want to share with anyone.