Travel Portugal – Part Three

By Beth Klemick

Our last day in Lisbon was spent at the Parque das Nacoes, which was home to the Expo '98 world exposition with the theme of "The Oceans: A Heritage for the Future", befitting to this seafaring nation. The Expo helped to revitalize the city and increase the international tourism market. Although the Expo has long been over the Parque das Nacoes is worthy of a full day's sightseeing, featuring several attractions; the most noteworthy is the Oceanarium with its 15,000 living examples of marine life. It is the largest aquarium in Europe, quite spectacular. The main tank holds enough water to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools, and is viewed from two floors through curved glass panels that provide a 180-degree view. Another popular diversion is the Virtual Reality Pavilion, which showcases the Portuguese age of discovery. Other attractions include a science center, cable car, the Vasco da Gama Tower and numerous bars and restaurants.

Our last evening in Lisbon was spent at a fabulous restaurant. By far this was one of the most unique and decadent dining experiences I have had abroad to date. Our hotel concierge made reservations for us at Casa da Comida, located in the city center not far from the Jardin de Las Amoreiras. It was a good thing that we decided to take a taxi versus walking and trying to find the restaurant on our own; even our taxi driver had difficulty locating the restaurant. The restaurant is located a dimly lighted street and not well marked; it could be a challenge to find, but what a treasure find when you do. As the taxi pulled away approached the door of the restaurant only to find it locked! We walked around the corner but only found darkness and no other entrances. After locating the doorbell, a tuxedo dressed Maitre d' greeted us at the door; we entered a complete jewel. He escorted us into a handsomely decorated bar/sitting room with a French Empire style bar. As we sat in two plush chairs and sipped our aperitifs, I took notice of the beautiful dining room and the charming walled garden inside the restaurant. It felt as if we were dining in someone's beautifully appointed mansion. Local gourmets tout Casa da Comida as offering some of the finest food in Lisbon, which is indeed true.

What I took away from the restaurant was the overall experience, the excellent cuisine and wine was an added bonus, but the concept of the dining experience offered at Casa da Comida is quite unique. Upon arrival of all guests, each is seated in the bar/sitting area for a cocktail and appetizers. At the same time you are presented with the menu along with the wine list, a waiter then takes your order and you can sit back and leisurely sip your drink. Once you are ready the Maitre d' escorts you to your table where you are served by two waiters and the wine sommelier; it is truly decadent. Everything is already taken care of, which allows you to enjoy your wonderful food and wine without disruption. This was an amazing dining experience and a perfect way to end our last evening in Lisbon.

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