Chef Paulo Morais is one of Portugal’s greatest seafood specialists. At Tsukiji, in Lisbon, the best catch meets Portuguese and Asian cuisine.
Imagine a foreign friend who’s never been to Portugal and the only fish they’ve eaten at home are those frozen industrial breaded fillets. They are unaware of variety, don’t know what grilled or baked fish is, don’t know much about sushi or sashimi, have never visited a fish market and when shopping at the supermarket have few species to choose from. Let’s also suppose that they are willing to learn what eating fish is all about. If that’s the case, there’s a great restaurant in Lisbon to take them to: Tsukiji, in the capital’s Belém neighbourhood. The name pays tribute to what was once Japan’s and the world’s largest fish market (in Tokyo), and is run by Paulo Morais, one of most respected Portuguese chefs when it comes to seafood and Asian cuisine. To kick off there’s a counter replete with fish and shellfish, where diners can see how fresh the produce is and perhaps try something new, such as turbot, John Dory, pargo or alfonsino, as well as molluscs.
After it’s been chosen, the fish is turned into five different dishes. Dehydrated and fried scales and skin, like crispy chips; a soup made using the head; sushi and sashimi or a loin tartar; a small cone with vinegar viscera. A veritable feast of flavours. This concept of sustainability (nose to tail eating) is something Morais really cares about. On the menu there are other sushi and sashimi, ramen, ceviche and the non-fish option of wagyu beef.
Tsukiji has two rooms, one of which is more private (30 places). The wood, marble and décor echo the sea, while the outside tables enjoy a splendid view of the Jerónimos Monastery. There are over 100 Portuguese wines and around 20 sakes, which can be enjoyed in the Wine & Sake Bar, which opens late morning.
The discreet Paulo Morais is well known for being the first sushi man in Portugal and one of the first to offer quality Asian cuisine in the country. He currently teaches at Estoril’s Tourism College, has worked at restaurants such as Furusato, Midori, Bica do Sapato, Umai and Rabo d’Pêxe, and written an Asian cookbook. After Japanese chef Tomo left in 2017, he took over Kanazawa, a restaurant with just eight places, where he continues to create (close to Belém, in Pedrouços).
by Augusto Freitas de Sousa
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