Portugal and Thailand have a relationship that’s spanned over 500 years. Yet surprisingly Portuguese cuisine has been strangely absent from the food scene landscape. But that has now changed. Now Bangkok foodies can enjoy delicious Portuguese Cuisine at La Portugalia (official Facebook page). They opened in October, 2017 and they are currently the only Portuguese restaurant in Bangkok.
La Portugalia is the offshoot restaurant of Thailand’s first and only import business of fine Portuguese food and beverages, Shop-Luso. As a result, they use authentic ingredients in their dishes and are able to offer excellent Portuguese wines and beers with their food. The dishes are homestyle meals and the ambience feels like home, too.
But let’s get right to the food, shall we?
First off, I am not an expert on Portuguese cuisine. But one thing I did learn, if you’re going to be dining with a Portuguese chef, you’d better be ready to feast. For my experience at La Portugalia I was able to dine with the owner/chef, Carlos, and a couple of members of his team.
I’m grateful to have had their help. It afforded me an opportunity to sample their menu better, enjoy excellent company, and actually be able to power down the feast without wasting any of the delicious food.
It starts with a soup…
This Green Broth Soup (150 baht) or Caldo Verde is a hearty soup made with finely shredded leafy greens, a rich broth of pureed onion, potato, and garlic, which is then topped with thin slices of Chouriço. It’s a great way to kick off a Portuguese meal!
Some must try sides…
Pastéis de Bacalhau (60 baht/each) is one of the most popular and traditional dishes in Portuguese cuisine. They are essentially fritters made with salted cod fish, spices, and potatoes. They’re delicious piping hot, and not at all “fishy”.
I could eat Rissóis (150 baht/set of 3) all day. These particular rissóis were made with chicken. They are similar to French croquettes and they’re made with a béchamel like sauce that makes them very creamy. I highly recommend this starter!
La Portugalia has forged relationships with local Thai farmers to provide excellent beef steaks. These Bitoque Steaks are seasoned only with a little olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. It doesn’t need anything else. The Bitoque Steak meal (430 baht) comes with a steak topped with a fried egg, rice, a side salad, and crispy seasoned potatoes. It’s a great value for a delicious meal!
Piri-Piri chicken was created by Portuguese settlers in Angola and Mozambique. The African version is much spicier, using the chilies found in the region. But the Portuguese version is much milder, yet very flavorful. The chicken itself is tender with slightly crunchy golden skin. They provided more piri-piri sauce which I slathered on to each bite. Yum!
The Piri-Piri Chicken meal (250 baht) is served with a side salad, crispy seasoned potatoes, and extra piri-piri sauce.
I didn’t think it necessary to take happy snaps of the salad, but the crispy potatoes are certainly worth showcasing. These crunchy spuds are seasoned with their signature blend of spices. They’re addictive. Fortunately they come with most meals sets, too!
Also worth mentioning is La Portugalia’s sandwich menu. Their sandwiches are made with homemade Portuguese breads filled with meats and cheese (prices ranging from 80 – 160 baht).
Save room for this!
This tasty pastry was invented by monks in the 18th century in Portugal. They used a lot of egg whites for starching clothes and found that the leftover egg yolks could be used to make this treat. Many think of it as an “egg tart” but it’s completely different. The top is caramelized while the pastry is still light and flaky. Unlike egg tarts which I find to be a bit rubbery, the center of this pastry is creamy like a custard and not as sweet as an egg tart.
For a real treat sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon on top. You’ll know you’re eating something different when you take that first bite. You will hear a crunch from the flaky crust and immediately taste the warm creamy filling.
For a real treat, try the Pastel de Nata (40 baht) with a strong espresso made with premium Portuguese coffee!
A chat with the owner…
During my visit I had the good fortune to talk with the owner of La Portugalia, Carlos. His story, and the backstory of the restaurant is interesting. Carlos has a background as a hotelier, but he also has an entrepreneurial spirit. He came to Thailand 7 years ago to start an export business to ship Thai goods to France. For years he bounced back and forth between Thailand and France operating the export business.
He had no interest in starting a food business until he agreed to help a friend by baking pastel de nata for a Bonjour French Fair event. Carlos couldn’t believe the overwhelmingly positive reaction he received at the booth for the tarts. There were long queues and many customers interested in knowing how they could get more after the event was over. Because of this success and the fact that he enjoyed making the pastel de nata he decided to start a little bakery “just for fun”. To this day, La Portugalia continues to churn out 900 pastel de nata every morning.
A new business venture…
While running the bakery he decided it was time to close the export business to France and settle down in Bangkok. Now there was no longer a need to divide his life between France and Thailand. But living in Bangkok he began to miss being able to get Portuguese goods. It simply wasn’t available in Thailand. So he decided to build Thailand’s first and only Portuguese import business of fine Portuguese food and beverages, Shop-Luso. They have an incredible selection of reasonably priced Portuguese wines, ports, and charcuteries and cheeses to go with them. They’re able to ship anywhere in Thailand, so if you’re looking for Portuguese products their website catalog is worth checking out.
La Portugalia is born…
To help create awareness about Portuguese food and wine, as well as showcase the offerings of his import business, Carlos participated in local food events, and catered for the Embassy of Portugal in Thailand. The many people who enquired about him opening a Portuguese restaurant in Bangkok provided encouragement for him to do just that.
In fact, I first met Carlos at his Portuguese Wine and Food Pairing event at Bacchus&Co and was instantly a fan and eager for him to open a restaurant. I feel incredibly honored and thankful that he remembered my and invited me to check out the restaurant.
La Portugalia is a place where you are made to feel right at home. Carlos is warm and engaging. He loves to meet with customers, and though he’ll tell you “The food is my passion.”, it’s easy to see that he is just as passionate about hospitality and ensuring guests feel welcome.
I’m hungry! Where is it?
Getting to La Portugalia is incredibly easy from the Sutthisan MRT station. Take Exit #2, turn left from the exit, then turn left on the first street you come to, then turn left again on the first street you come to. You’ll find La Portugalia on the….wait for it….left side of the narrow street.
It’s an easy 3 minute walk from the MRT station. The Google map below will get you there (Shop-Luso is the import grocer that is collocated within the restaurant). Instead of a restaurant signage for La Portugalia there is a large sign for “GLOBO International”. That’s actually the parent company of the import business, grocer, and restaurant. Believe me, THIS is the place!
La Portugalia is open Monday-Saturday, but it’s a good idea to check their Facebook page as they may be closed for a catering event. It’s also encouraged to make reservations by phone 02-693-1980 or 094-436-5049 especially if you have a large party wanting to dine. I’d love to hear your feedback if you visit this Bangkok food gem!