Lusitanian Michelin Stars
International Gourmet Festival 2013 – Vila Joya, Algarve, Portugal Nov 7-16
“It wasn’t so long ago that Portugal only had one Michelin-starred restaurant outside of the Algarve, but today there are three 1-star restaurants in northern Portugal, two in the Lisbon region and one on the island of Madeira. And for the third year running, they all got together at Vila Joya last night to show just how far Portugal has come when it comes to great food.” source credit: (http://www.internationalgourmetfestival.com/index.php)
VILA JOYA is a boutique hotel and restaurant whose nickname “The Jewellery Box” perfectly describes the precious palace of joy on the Atlantic ocean. Within its Moorish and Portuguese architecture and peaceful gardens, it holds all the elements of pleasure for an indulgent retreat: luxury rooms and suites, a rejuvenating spa, heavenly gardens with access to the beach and internationally renowned haute cuisine.
LAST NIGHT’S MENU started with two dishes presented at once; a Gillardeau oyster with ponzu and tangerine from Madeira-based chef Benoît Sinthon, and octopus with lemon and potato by George Mendes. Next came cured Scottish salmon with imperial caviar from Algarve chef Henrique Leis. All three dishes were beautifully executed and presented, but flavour-wise, they were outshone by the following course from 2-star chef Hans Neuner of the Ocean at Vila Vita Parc here in the Algarve: Toro tuna rolled around a mousse of aubergine flavoured with miso and lime. It got a firm nod and Japanese bow of approval from the previous night’s chef Murakami who was seated next to me.
We were off to a great start with four superb cold dishes served in perfect sequence. The first hot course came next; red mullet with scallop and what chef Ricardo Costa of Vila Nova de Gaia’s The Yeatman restaurant dubbed as “carpaccio de cozido”, in fact a thin slice of sausage made with the ingredients of a traditional Portuguese cozido stew. The meatiness of the sausage was a good balance for the richly flavoured flesh of the red mullet and the sweetness of the scallop, another winning combination.
By this stage, looking down the menu with five more courses to come before dessert, we knew we were in for something of a gastronomic onslaught. Frenchman Vincent Farges of Fortaleza do Guincho in Cascais followed with more of that fabulous white alba truffle we had experienced the previous night, this time shaved no less generously on a dish of turbot with Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnut. We then went from white truffle to black with a cappuccino of black truffles concealing tender sot l’y laisse (chicken oysters) by Albano Lourenço of Quinta das Lágrimas in Coimbra, and then to Koschina’s venison saddle with smoked duck foie, Leonel Pereira‘s foie gras with onion and cauliflower, and finally a rich and succulent dish of stewed hare from Lisbon’s rising star José Avillez rounding off the savoury courses. Portugal’s northernmost Michelin star Vitor Matos of Casa da Calçada in Amarante had the final say with an immaculate dessert of chocolate and forest fruits served in a mock wine bottle.
Although a menu that may have been a little heavy for some tastes, it was well balanced, and the overall standard was certainly worthy of Vila Joya’s own 2-star Michelin rating. The Portuguese chefs have raised the bar.
Photo and article text source credit: http://www.internationalgourmetfestival.com/news.php?id=53