For four years, chef João Simōes has exercised his creative take on Portuguese cuisine in a restored 12th-century building in the center of town in Alenquer. To enjoy a tasting menu there, as we did in late November (at the invitation of the Câmara Municipal de Alenquer) is to walk through his expressions of favorite petiscos, pratos, sobremesas–all influenced by local ingredients.
Featured on our menu, and appropriate to fall, were two of my own favorite ingredients, alheira and quail. The alheira, typically a heavily breaded sausage made with game, came as a croquette–and I stole an extra from my partner in crime–crunchy outside and fluffy inside, as it should be. The quail came atop a timbale of root vegetables, surrounded by a rich sauce. Other courses included a quail egg on toast, and croquettes of bacalhau in broth. Dessert took on a kaleidoscope of flavors, including a petite bolo de bolacha, pomegranate sorbet, and a cake topped with laranja.
A selection of wines from the list topping 180 entries featured those from the DOC Alenquer, as fitting for this menu. The space feels both airy and intimate, with the stone bringing the history of the building–the former Albergaria do Espírito Santo–to the present.