Sunday 21 September 2014

Tasco, Rua do Almada, Porto

Ola! BagnallEats is now in Western Europe--Oporto, Portugal, to be exact. It's a land of cheese, custard tarts, wine, and a worrisome combination of potatoes and rice with every dish. It's a place where the lack of dumplings and curries is compensated by the quality and ubiquity of all things pork.

Arriving jetlagged and a bit sad, we spent our first two days in Porto making poor food-related choices. It took a while to come to terms with the fact that, unlike Malaysia, everyone in Portugal expects you to at least make a basic effort to speak their language, and all the Portuguese we had learnt beforehand was completely irrelevant for any real-life situation.
This resulted in some lovely views, but completely, sometimes almost comically, awful food. We finally came to our senses, started acting like the tourists we actually are, and went on TripAdvisor, which led us to this lovely gem.
Tasco is on a quiet street off the main tourist drag, a few minutes away from our future apartment on the Rua do Almada. 

When we arrived, shortly after its opening at 7:15, every table was already booked. After assuring our waitress we would finish within the 2 hours available before the reservation actually turned up, we were sat in the back.  We were quickly charmed by its casual and slightly funky decor.

We were even more charmed by the selection of bread and olives immediately placed on our table.

The bread was a combination of crispy carraway seed-studded sticks, uncomfortably dense brown loaves, and slices of satisfying, hearty white bread

The olives were to die for. Marinated in olive oil, garlic and oregano, their quality really made it hit home that we weren't in Asia anymore.

 For drinks, Charlie went for one of the local craft beers, which were mysteriously named 'Craftbeer A, B, C, D' etc. He chose A, presumably the lightest beer, which turned out to be a good choice. It was fruity, smooth, and not hops-y tasting, which gives it an A in my book anyways.

In the background you can see my vinho verde, the local specialty in Portugal. It's sweet and fruity, but just dry and clean-flavoured enough to avoid becoming cloying. Very tasty stuff, and for 2 Euros it again emphasized how different things are here compared to Asia.

Tasco is a tapas bar, so we decided to each choose one dish and a side. I uncharacteristically chose an octopus dish, but only because of its name on the menu: 'Octopus Traditional Wonder' (4.75 Euros). How could I not? This turned out to be the traditional wonder:

I'm not sure the appearance lives up to the name, but the taste surely did. It was parsley-speckled fried dough with bits of octopus, but the taste was so much more (and this is coming from someone who is fairly anti-octopus). The octopus was neither fishy or rubbery, which are my basic arguments against octopus, and it was complimented nicely by the mildly salty dough. Our main complaint was there could have been more octopus, which is a complaint I'd never thought I'd make.

Alone this octopus pancake would have been a bit dry if it hadn't been for the 'Tomato Breathtaking Rice' (2.5 Euros).

The excellence of the name was only outdone by the excellence of our waitress for recommending it. Slightly sweet from the tomatoes but with the strong taste of bay leaves, its simple flavours complemented the octopus nicely, turning it into a very satisfying fork of food.

 3.5/5 without rice. The rice made it a more 'breathtaking' at 4/5

Charlie went for 'Mix Meat Lovers with beef, sausage, spicy sausage, pickles, and cheese'(8 Euros), which basically was exactly as described, although with bits of pork added in for good measure. We certainly didn't mind.

Again, looks might deceive, as this was super tasty. The meats all complemented each other in a white wine sauce, and all the richness was cut by the extremely (but pleasantly) sour and crunchy vegetables. And then there's cheese, because why not ?! 4/5

 To clog our arteries and please our palates a bit more, we had homemade chips on the side.

Crisp and flavoursome, these were a welcome, although not entirely necessary, addition. 3/5

We finished dinner with my new favourite thing about Porto: the coffee. Specifically the 'pingu'.

Translated as 'small latte', this is a shot of Portuguese coffee with just a dash of milk. It's as creamy as an expensive hot chocolate, but with a deep, bold coffee taste that isn't bitter at all.  

Tasco was our first truly good meal in Porto, and is definitely a place we will return to in the future...mainly because we didn't have dessert...and look at this menu...oh my.... 

P.S. there are supposed to be umlauts over the o in 'Tasco', but I refused to type it out of principle

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