This far flung SoHo outpost of bacalao features mainland Portuguese fare and a dining room straight out a Lisbon-inspired film noir. The diminutive Spring Street entrance opens onto the bar, where the inspired can practice their Portuguese. The lucky may even meet up with some of Portugal’s most popular actors and directors.
The pub-esque bar dominates the action in this small, bustling space, overlooking the small collection of white linen-covered tables. In summer outdoor seating doubles the capacity and invites an even more Lisbon feel. You may have to wait for a table if you arrive at prime time, but you can call ahead to reserve a table.
As soon as you sit down you receive a basket of pao (bread), which you should reserve for sopping. The menu is presented in a picture frame and features two offerings of the famous bacalao (codfish) so important to Portuguese cookery. The codfish cakes are meaty versions of croquettes, served with a garnish of tomato, orange and cucumber. The first entrée on menu is the traditional bacalao sautéed and served with egg. Another traditional dish is the mariscos, a mixture of clams, mussels and shrimp steamed in a tomato and chorizo broth, and served in its own copper pot. One truly Portuguese dish that often invites comments or quizzical looks is the pork and clam cataplana (stew), a beloved and traditional mainland dish. Also traditional is the braised rabbit served with hazelnut mashed potatoes. Specials are often good, especially lamb, so be sure to ask.
Among the desserts is the chocolate salami, slices of a rich, deep chocolate roll packed with pistachios and resembling dry salami. Don’t be fooled – this is a very rich dessert not for the faint of heart.
While at Pao you should try the vinho verde or green wine. This wine, a specialty from Minho, is made from unripe grapes and has a crisp, sparkling body. It is a light wine popular in summer and goes well with the seafood dishes so popular in Portugal. Also good to try are the porto (port) and the madeira (similar to sherry). All three of these products are appellation-controlled, with port being the most widely known.
The service staff are friendly and helpful, and they will explain the menu and its offerings. The vibe here is decidedly upbeat, and the cuisine very true to the home country. You will feel as though you are in Lisbon and you will enjoy the voyage.
Telephone: (212) 334-5464
Address: 322 Spring St
Cross Streets Greenwich St.
- to Houston St
- to Spring St
- to Canal St -- 0.3
Hours And Additional Info
Price: Moderate. About $16 to $30 per person.
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