February 2020
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When one thinks of traditional Portuguese culture, one is compelled to think of Fado.

Fado is the Portuguese word for “fate” and it refers to a musical style of love songs that are sung while you are eating your dinner.

In Lisbon there are lots of Fado restaurants, many of them are geared specifically for tourists with overpriced and uninspired cooking, so it helps to have a local guide who can take you to the best.

Luckily we had such a guide who took us to Fado Maior—a restaurant so obscure and difficult to find that the local admitted that she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to locate the restaurant. We took the subway to the end of the line, walked down a street, took a right, another right, a left, bent left (or was it right), walked up a hill, past a few restaurants, down a “street” and end up at it’s front door. I might have messed up the directions, but suffice it to say that the street was about 3 meters wide at some points.

It was a small restaurant and the owners, a husband, wife, and son team, welcomed our host with open arms: she used to live in the neighborhood and, one year, had filled the entire restaurant for her birthday party.

After some appetizers and opening the first bottle of an excellent red wine, our host recommended fried cod cakes: four out of the six of us ordered it. The other people at the table ordered other fish dishes and we settled in for a lovely evening of conversation.

And love songs.

Two guitar players arrived and after introductory warm-up music, the owner’s son sung several love songs in Portuguese. The lights were dimmed and conversation in the restaurant paused for the set. It’s hard to capture in a textual form, but it was really an excellent experience.

And the food was also excellent: the fried cod cakes were dynamite and were accompanied with a fantastic beans and rice dish. The owners, knowing our host, assured us that extra beans and rice were available should we finish the first bowl—which we did easily.

Over the course of our evening, we were serenaded four times: the husband, wife, and sons participated. The singers who were not center stage would sing along from the kitchen.

For dessert a number of excellent choices were to be had—a rice pudding, a flan, and a Chocolate Moose. All of the desserts were homemade. My flan was excellent.

Lisbon is an excellent city: lots to see and do with a laid back atmosphere, and I have to say my meal at Fado Maior was a terrific complement to all the other things I’ve come to love about this city.

Details: Fado Maior is hard to find: Largo do Peneireiro 7; 1100-406 Alfama-Lisboa. Tel: +351 218 877 508. It’s located in the vicinity of the Museu do Fado—a museum I’m going to check out the next time I’m in Lisbon.

4 comments to Fado

  • That sounds excellent — we’ve been thinking about a trip to Portugal, and wondering what we’d do if we ever got there. Your experiences sounds just like what we’d like to have. Thanks for posting this!

  • @cliff: Lisbon is fantastic–I love this place. Unfortunately I’ve never really gotten that far out of Lisbon… maybe next time.

  • disenchanted

    It sounds like great fun!

  • Rui

    Lisbon is the city with the most soul and character in Europe. The mosaic pavements, the tiles, the different colors of the buildings, the trams, the views from the hills, the distinctive architecture… I’m glad you enjoyed it too!