reviewed by : Melissa Richter
27 June 2018
When I first heard that the fine dining Italian steakhouse Il Fumo had revamped their menu to focus on Portuguese food, I admittedly had feelings that hovered between eager anticipation and apprehension. My experience with this cuisine had been limited to rustic sausages and homey seafood stews. I had a challenging time trying to envision how this cuisine could be elevated to a fine dining level. I am happy to report that Chef Nelson Amorim and his team have managed to pull it off. Their innovative concept of “New-wave Portuguese Cuisine” not only defies expectations but is delivered with Michelin star level precision and skill that will simply blow you away. Incorporating family recipes and an appreciation for the way Portuguese food has evolved as it merged with Asian and African influences, they set forth dishes that are historically relevant, yet fully embrace the future.
Located near Rama IV in an elegantly renovated historic home, Il Fumo exudes a rustic and masculine charm in the bar and lounge with dark wood and leather furnishings in stark contrast to the adjacent white and cream airy dining room with a ‘peek-a-boo” open kitchen. They have a well-appointed wine cellar and signature cocktails are a vital part of the experience, and you will be well advised to start off with their bespoke Il Fumo Martini served tableside. Consisting of Botanist Gin, Barrel-aged Noilly Prat, Dry Vermouth and Kalamata Olive it is smoked with apple wood chips producing a formidable, yet well balanced cocktail with a smooth, smoky finish.
When you visit, you can either opt for the a la carte menu or choose from two tasting menus with or without wine paring. We began our meal with a sampling of “Portuguese bites” all of which were brilliant. The stand out was the Bacalhau (codfish) & Fresh Fava Bean on a Crispy Fried Squid Ink Polenta Chip which we washed down with a delightful Bottega Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie IGT, Veneto, 2015. Next up was the avant-garde Cod w/ Blood Orange Emulsion, Chickpeas & Olive Oil Ice Cream, which is a thrill and a flavorsome revelation. There is however one dish, that was truly “life changing” and that was the Octopus Tentacle. It literally transports you with its reality-defying tenderness and hints of subtle smokiness that permeates every molecule of the flesh. Best enjoyed with a bold wine such as the Good Chianti DOCG, Tuscany, 2015 this is a sultry, sexy dish that is legendary. For the main course, be sure to try the Portuguese Carne Barrosã, a rarely imported beef from Portugal that is served blushing pink medium rare. It has a juicy and intensely beefy flavor which is highlighted by the crunchy bits of fried fat cubes that accompany it. It verges on the edge of obscenity and somehow manages to be primal yet refined at the same time. Pair this with a bold red wine such as the Vesevo, Aglianico del Beneventano IGT, Campania, 2013 or the Primitivo Montecoco Salento, Masseria Li Veli, 2013. For dessert we highly recommend the delectable Pudim Abade de Priscos w/ Orange, Black Olive Oil & Yuzu Sorbet. This is an ethereal celebration of the simple orange that surprises and delights at every turn. End your evening on the terrace or back in the lounge with a digestif of Hennessy VSOP Cognac served warm in a delicate crystal glass or a sweet port wine such as the Cims de Porrera Vi de Vila, 2013.
Il Fumo has all the elements required for an unforgettable gourmet Portuguese experience. It’s a fine dining establishment with a keen eye for the details, and the food is elegantly plated and expertly prepared with an enduring respect for the ingredients. Couple this with their superior cocktails, thoughtful wine pairings, and friendly and competent service, and you have all the elements required for a wildly satisfying meal.