Chef Roeland Klein of Avenida suggested we go eat at Florian in Quinta do Lago, which also has a Dutch chef and according to him serves top quality ingredients. When we arrived at Florian, the host and wife of the chef let us know that a tasting menu of different dishes on the menu with wine pairing had been arranged for us by the chef. Would that be okay with us? Yes of course. Usually the restaurant works à la carte with starters around 15 euros, mains around 30 euros and desserts around 10 euros.
We started off with pata negra iberico ham, served with homemade melba toast. The ham was delicious and sliced thinly. This is different than how it is sliced in Spain, but I actually like it better this way. The pairing with a glass of champagne was very nice.
Next was smoked salmon with quail egg and Dutch bitterballen, veal croquettes. Everything homemade and very tasty, and paired well with the champagne.
The first wine is a blend of Rabigato, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, and Moscatel from Douro. It has nice floral aromas and is very well balanced.
It is a great pairing for the cold smoked salmon, smoked by the chef, and served with quail egg, caviar, creme fraiche, and toast. The salmon has a wonderful smoky flavor and is not as salty as commercially smoked salmon.
The next wine is another blend from Douro with more body and complexity than the previous one, made from Fernão Pires, Viosinho, Códega, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, and Malvasia Rei. It is just as balanced, but with more complexity.
The wine becomes even better in combination with the pastrami, which enhances the complexity. The ‘New York style’ pastrami is delicious and made by the chef, served with homemade sauerkraut, soft mustard, and rye bread.
Paired well with the same wine is a lobster bisque, made from fresh lobster and with morsels of lobster in it. The lobster bisque has a very intense yet pleasant flavor.
Pinot Noir is a not a grape variety you encounter often in Portugal, but this was a very nice one, that reminded me of the smooth style as it is made in Alsace and Germany. Germans call this würzig.
The Pinot was served slightly chilled and was a great pairing with grilled tuna from the Azores, that came with black olive fresh pasta, tomato salsa, a bit of homemade basil pesto, a parmesan cracker, dehydrated lemon, and dehydrated tomato. This sounds like a lot of different flavors on a plate, but it all went together very well.
This 10-year old slightly sweet Madeira of Sercial did not mean that it was time for dessert.
Instead, this terrine of duck foie gras with toasted macademia nuts, home made apple syrup, brioche, and pear was served. The apple syrup and pear provided nice contrasts to the rich terrine and the pairing worked very well.
This red from Douro is from the same producer as the white that came with the salmon, and a blend of Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in Spain) Touriga Nacional, and Touriga Franca. The wine had lots of dark fruit and smooth tannins, and reminded me of a Rioja.
The wine was a great accompaniment with three different cuts of Iberico pork, each prepared in a different way. The ‘pluma’ (from the shoulder) was grilled on the Big Green Egg, medium rare, tender, juicy, smoky and just wondeful. Who needs beef when pork can be this good. The pork cheek was a confit, and a piece of neck was cooked low and slow. This was probably the best pork I’ve ever had.
We didn’t really have room for dessert after all of this, so we just had a tasting of the coffee mousse with hazelnut syrup and whipped cream, paired with a 10-year old tawny port.
The petit fours that came with coffee or tea were also homemade: cocoa truffle and shortbread (Dutch boterkoek).
The food at Florian is straightforward without unnecessary creativity. Great products are expertly prepared to make them shine. If the quality of the pork is as great as this was, and it is grilled as expertly as this was, then you really don’t need anything fancy to turn it into an unforgettable dish. Everything is homemade by the chef, from the bread to the condiments to the smoked salmon and pastrami. The food isn’t exactly Portuguese food, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
What makes a dinner at Florian even greater is that the chef is also an expert at pairing wine with his food. Most chefs leave this to the sommelier, al too often without enough communication between the two of them. Here all the wine pairings were perfect, with the food and wine enhancing each other.
The service was great as well, very friendly and attentive.