Tasca da Esquina, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: Creative, sorta fancy, newfangled style of petiscos. The chef's choice tasting menu is very good! (This is what Pharmacia wants to be...)

Wine: Great rotating selection by the glass.

My take: If you're in Estrella or Campo Ourique or want to adventure outside the main tourist center of Lisbon, this should be one of your dinners!

Park Bar, Lisbon, Portugal

My take: This is a bar with fab views of central Lisbon and the river on top of a parking garage on Calcada do Combro in the heart of Bairro Alto. Part of the fun is going is the surprise of its location--you enter the parking garage on the street level and take an elevator up as far as it will go. Then you walk up the ramp for one level. Cocktails, wine and beer. They also have food if you decide not to leave! Perfect sunset spot for pre-dinner drinks. More on Park Bar

Largo Restaurante, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: This is what I'd call a "power lunch" place. The setting is stunning. A former convent turned into luxurious dining spaces with giant aquariums filled with jellyfish as the artwork. The food stands up to the setting too. It's upscale Portuguese.

Wine: They have a menu for gin cocktails--so it's calling itself more of a cocktail joint but has a nice wine list of all the right regions and good producers.

My take: It's one of the trendy, more expensive spots. You can get a great deal on the lunch menu so that's when I prefer to go. More on Largo

Noobai Cafe, Lisbon, Portugal

My take: This is one of my coffee/light breakfast go-tos. A beautiful spot on the Santa Catarina Miradouro (belvedere) to sit in the morning light and enjoy the view with toast and coffee. It is also a good spot for a sunset drink or a nightcap! More on Noobai

Alexandre Silva, Lisbon, Portugal (Mercado da Ribeira)

My take: One of my go-tos when I'm in the market for lunch. Fresh and satisfying tour of Portuguese food. More on Mercado da Ribeira

O Ponto Final, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: Seafood plus other Portuguese classics. It's hit or miss. When it hits, it's pretty good.

Wine: Drink here! Good list. You could go to drink a bottle of wine early in the evening to enjoy the sunset and wonderful views.

My take: This is a magical (but touristy) place because of the boat journey there and the view across the river to Lisbon as you are sitting at an outdoor table getting misted by the waves. To get there take the ferry from Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas. It's around 1 euro and takes 10 minutes. And then it's a 10 min walk going west along the river to the restaurant. It gets chilly at night but the waiter will bring blankets.

Pharmacia, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: A satisfying, modernized take on classic Portuguese food inside the Pharmacy school. 

Wine: Thoughtful, short list of fine producers. Some international producers available too.

My take: Of the trendy places in Lisbon, this is one of my faves because of the fun setting. And the outdoor area (with great views on the Tejo and Jesus) is nice for a pre-dinner beverage. Try the tasting menu. You will not leave hungry (well, you won't leave hungry anywhere in Portugal!). More on Pharmacia

Sea Me Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: Creative Portuguese take on sushi! 

Wine: Small (it's the market) but good list by the glass.

My take: You can eat at the market location and have the Sea Me experience without spending as much. And they have some dishes specific to the market. More on Mercado da Riberia

Fabulas, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: Fresh, trendy take on Portuguese classics in a pretty, fully covered courtyard (shared with two other restaurants--but separate).  Just through a large door off of the busy Rua Garrett.  

Wine: Small, focused list of good wine producers.

My take: One of those places that's great for lunch with a friend but also for a date!  Recommended! More on Fabulas

Golfinho Azul, Ericeira, Portugal

Food: Fresh seafood and a varied menu on a cliff on the coast with a great view. The terrace is lovely. Every dish I've had here was good. 

Wine: Their house wine and wines by the glass are well chosen. The beer is chilled and tasty here too.

My take: It's a little bit of drive to the north of Ericeira, but I think it's worth it for the setting especially if you are leaving Ericeira to visit the beaches in that area. It's close to Praia Ribeira D'ilhas, the surfing beach that is one of four world surfing reserves in the world. 

Maruyama, Gion District, Kyoto, Japan

Food: Just wow. A 13-course kaiseki dinner. It is the most "true to the seasons" meal I have ever eaten. And I happily ate a dozen or so things that I had no idea what they were. Here are two good primers on kaiseki: Understanding Kaiseki & Japan Talk: Kaiseki.

Wine: I drank two types of daiginjo sake that went beautifully with most of the courses. If you're new to Japanese beverages (like me), maybe they do a beverage pairing, which would be worth it.

My take: This was a wonderful experience. The food was top-notch. The setting is traditional and calm and lovely and the service outstanding. It has 2 Michelin stars if you care about that. But that's not the reason to go. Unforgettable.

Satsuki Course: Sea bream and conger sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves, taro & vinegar water with "hojiso" or perilla buds. 

Sakizuke Course: Sea bream sashimi with horsebeans and "itadori" or local vegetables (mystery!)

Mukozuke Course: sashimi course of sea bream, shrimp and cuttlefish

Yakimono Course: roasted spring salmon with black sesame and fermented soy beans. Pickled lotus garnish.

Oshinogi Course: Coal-roasted tofu with red and white miso glaze. And a young pepper tree leaf, a tongue-tingling delight!

 Takiawase Course: Pork, bamboo shoots, peppers and more of those pepper tree leaves. Perhaps the sake made the photos blurry?

Takiawase Course: Pork, bamboo shoots, peppers and more of those pepper tree leaves. Perhaps the sake made the photos blurry?

Chinmi Course: Beef. Scallop in a hollowed out mandarin orange with leeks, asparagus and mushrooms.  Plus a tomato, an amazing one.

Mizumono Course: Dessert.  Warabi-moti (like a green tea Japanese Turkish Delight) and banana sorbet with fruit.

Daiginjo sake (don't know producer)

Els Balconet, Cadaques, Spain

Food: Els Balconet sources its food locally and designs the menu around that idea. The food is wonderful and fresh (and you can feel pretty good about eating the fish if you worry about overfishing).

Wine: A really nice selection of local wines. So fun to eat and drink so "locally" here. Had a 100% xarel.lo from Catalan. Perfect with seafood.

My take: When in Cadaques, go to Els Balconet! Ask to sit on the top floor terrace.

Seafood citrus rice, a house specialty.  I wanted to swim in it.

There's that rice again. I'm in there swimming somewhere.

Tuna tartar

The other tuna tartar of the day

Casa Matreno, Tomar, Portugal

Food: Taberna menu with several fresh, simple and very good staples, plus daily specials. I love it every time.

Wine: Try the house wines, which are local from near Tomar. Plus beer on tap. 

My take: Highly recommended. Go to Tomar. It was wonderful. The magnificent Convento do Cristo 12th C Knights Templar/Order of Christ fortress there blew my mind. Casa Matreno and Casa das Ratas are the same owner/kitchen and just across the street from one another. The sidewalk seating is lovely. More on Casa Matreno. More on Convento do Cristo.

Soalheiro Winery, Quinta do Soalheiro, Melgaco, Portugal

Wine: I love these wines. Soalheiro was the first winery to make wines from the alvarinho grape in the region. They make 8 wines, mostly based on alvarinho. My favs are the Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas and the Alvarinho Reserva (aged in French oak).  

Food: You can do a wine tour and tasting that includes their house-made sausage made with local pork called Bisara. They have a separate business just down the road called Quinta de Folga where they make sausage and grow a gorgeous organic garden. The sausage was some of the best I've ever tasted. 

My take: Highly recommended. This was a lovely experience. Down-to-earth, very friendly family. Beautiful facilities in a wonderful landscape. We played with the dog while we tasted the wines, ate the amazing sausage and treats from the garden. More on Soalheiro. More on Quinta de Folga

L'AND VINEYARDS, Montemor-O-Novo, Alentejo

Food: It has 1 Michelin star. Meals are a tasting menu format. It is a modern take on traditional Alentejo/Portuguese cooking. There's a pretty, sleek patio where you can have coffee or a drink after dinner.

Wine: They have a small-ish but interesting list and have 3 whites and 3 reds by the glass, each from a different region. They also pour their nice L'AND red, which is Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Franca.

My take: It's a gorgeous property and a fun, fancy experience. If you're visiting the Èvora area of the Alentejo and want to do the Michelin thing for a night (or lunch), go for it. More on L'AND.

Tartar-ia, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: Delicious, very fresh fish, beef and veggies creatively prepared tartar-style. 

Wine: Good small rotating selection by the glass. They usually have Soalheiro, my favorite alvarinho producer!

My take: A top pick in Lisbon. You gotta go. I crave it. (Especially if you need a break from the typical, hearty Portuguese cuisine). More on Tartaria.

Taberna Portuguesa, Lisbon, Portugal

Food: Pretty decent petiscos (tapas)! The tasting menu is the thing to do here. You get to sample big portions of several traditional petiscos with unlimited wine or beer for 25 Euros. It is a lot of food so come hungry.

Wine: It's a house white and a house red. Don't ask, just drink. And don't be afraid to ask for refills.

My take: It's touristy but fun. It's not really about the quality (although the food is totally fine); it's about the indulgence. It's also crowded and there's a line outside anytime after 7:30pm. Go around 7 to get right in. More on Taberna Portuguesa.