As our fabulous Portugal trip was approaching its end, I thought it would be delightful to pamper ourselves with a Michelin Star lunch at the Gastronomic Restaurant, in The Yeatman Hotel. The hotel is located in Vila Nova de Gaia, next to lodges where Port houses age their wines. Storing wines in the more humid and temperate Vila Nova de Gaia was a practice which originated from a few centuries ago. Back then houses were not well-insulated, thus wines stored in the sunny Douro valley were suffering from a phenomenon known as “Douro bake”, causing accelerated oxidation from the heat. Nowadays this condition is quite rare as air ventilation technologies improve.

When we arrived at 1 pm ready for our meal, the restaurant was just about to open. Typically, the Portuguese are used to having later lunches and dinners in comparison to their North American counterparts. It was said that Portuguese food are not as high-profile as other European cuisines, which translates to a more reasonable price tag. The Sunday lunch, a 3-course meal, plus dessert and coffee or tea, costs €45. Considering the ambiance, the service and the quality of the food, this is a bargain.

Wine buffs can tour the wine cellar which boasts more than 1,000 wines around the world, accompanied by the hotel’s Sommelier. The tour, along with a tasting of 5 wines, is priced at €100. I opted out as I would like to spend my last day in Porto relatively sober. Something to look forward to next time!

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Wall of awards and trophies.

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Chef’s Greetings 1 ~ We started off with some sorbet to cleanse our palate.

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Chef’s Greetings 2 ~ And carrot infused mousse with caviar on top.

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The Sommelier recommended the Meruge 2011 from the Douro Valley and referred to it as a “Portuguese Burgundy”.  As consumers are getting increasingly tired of the big, bold, “Parkerized” wines, many producers from hot climate zones are thinking of ways to produce something that is more refreshing. This Douro wine, made with Tinta Roriz grape (Tempranillo), went through shorter maceration and less extraction to obtain a lighter-bodied, fruitier and more elegant final product. For food-pairing purpose, I feel that this style is more suitable in comparison to their traditional full-bodied counterparts.

After the meal I went to the hotel’s wine store to pick up a bottle of the Meruge. To my pleasant surprise the markup for consuming in the restaurant was outrageous. The store manager, who made recommendations on what to buy, was knowledgeable, and his selections were all reasonably priced (between €20 to mid €30s). I came across a lot of people and a lot of establishments that associate a hefty price tag to good bottle of wine.  In most cases it holds truth; however I am a firm believer that one can find a hidden gem at any price range. Respecting others’ budget constraints and remaining non-judgmental shows decency, character and a true passion for wine.

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Although Portuguese olive oils are quite refined, I still prefer to have butter with my bread.

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Chef’s Greetings 3 ~ As we approached our 3rd Chef’s Greetings course, which was a piece of delicious crusted tuna, we already felt plenty welcomed.

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Course 1 ~ Crayfish roasted with herbs, seabass ceviche, celery purée and crustacean sauce ~ Crayfish appeared and tasted like a hybrid between lobster and shrimp. The plump and juicy crayfish in itself was already marvelous without having to dip it into any sauce. Ceviche was wrapped in a piece of seabass sashimi, served with caviar.

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Course 2 ~ Suckling pig belly with lobster carpaccio and herbs salad ~ Portuguese cuisine has a repertoire on grilled fish and suckling pig, Leitão. This traditional dish was enhanced with a modernized twist. The raspberry purée well-complemented the pork.

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The mushroom risotto with ham was satisfying, and again, a surprise from the chef as it was not on the menu.

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Course 3 ~ Royal pigeon breast roasted with herbs, chestnut purée, caramelized spring onions and game sauce ~  Cooked to medium, the pigeon was tender as its juice was sealed in. The bite-size foie-gras on the right side was creamy in texture, yet delicate.

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Pineapple sorbet to prepare us for dessert.

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Course 4 ~ Carobe cake, chocolate and pumpkin with toffee and caramel ice-cream ~ Out of everything that we had been served, this was the least exciting dish as the cake was dry and uninteresting.

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Mignardises ~ These bite-size desserts that came in a porcelain box were as pretty as they were tasty.  I especially enjoyed the passion fruit truffle.

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Most recommended: Crayfish, suckling pig and pigeon.

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Suggestions for improvements:

1. No complaints regarding food as both taste and presentation of the dishes were excellent. However, the meal took over 3 hours to finish. Although I was certainly not hoping to rush through this experience, trying to keep it under 2 hours seemed more reasonable.

The Yeatman Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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