My memories of Porto will always involve that first holiday horror story. But it will also involve the most amazing unplanned meals. If you know me well enough, you know that I love holiday spreadsheets and planning itineraries on the basis of where I want to eat. Porto was the first vacation that I didn’t do this, and it was quite freeing to be pleasantly surprised.
There was one specific place I made reservations for, as it was RocketMan’s birthday and it needed to be one for the books. ODE Porto Wine House was highly recommended by trusted peers, so that was where I took him for his advancing years.
We were greeted by a letter from the chef. This touch was reminiscent of my experience at the two Michelin-starred La Palme d’Or in Cannes and I instantly made a mental note to compare both experiences post dining.
We opted for the mega tasting menu, which I thought at 78€ was an absolute bargain.
We went for the sommelier’s choice of wine accompaniment. RocketMan loves a pinot noir and the sommelier’s recommendation was perfect: Anselmo Mendes Pardusco Vinho Verde Tinto from 2015. Smooth and light to the taste, it’s slightly dry with well marked acidity and a fine balanced of sweet red fruits and an earthy note.
We started with some bread and homemade butter. If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really think bread in Porto is that good. There’s a density that I’m not quite keen on. But that butter was delicious.
The first snack arrived, a sliver of Portuguese sardine. You can’t really not have this in Portugal, it’s practically a souvenir for the belly. Dedicated shops have walls lined with tinned seafood, sealed in variants of oils and sauces. The humble sardine is my fave though, growing up eating Spanish sardines for snackage. ODE’s offering was tiny but packed with flavour. A lovely start.
Next up was a refreshing dish of red cabbage, asparagus and celery puree. This was a welcome refreshing dish after the sardine. Now I’m not usually keen on espuma but this was just the perfect binder for everything. Loved this.
The next dish was a slice of hake with salmon eggs and coriander sauce. Love a bit of table theatrics, even with the simplest form of a server pouring it onto my bowl.
The fish slice was thin, so the little pops of salmon roe absolutely raised the subtle profile of the hake. And that coriander sauce was well-balanced and did not overpower the dish.
I didn’t like the next dish at all, but that was something I knew beforehand because the star was a low temperature egg, floating in veal broth. Now since then I’ve upped my egg-eating level to scrambled eggs, but I just couldn’t face a runny yolk – much as I love egg porn.
Now the dish after that was the one I was looking forward to devour the most. Octopus with arroz negro? Count. Me. In.
The rice was cooked exactly how I want a black paella to be, ever the teeniest bit starchy with a good chew. Squid ink is usually subtle but this was bursting with massive flavour. The octopus was GORGEOUS. I forgot to ask how it was cooked but it had a really nice smooth texture to it and it cut like butter. Plus the flavour was really delicious, married well with the rice.
Another fish dish arrived. Cod this time, with cockles and sat on a thick leaf of savoy cabbage and purple potato puree. The cod itself was tasty and the cockles were surprisingly a great addition with the salty, rubbery texture adding more depth to the dish. This one came with another espuma sauce which I don’t care much for either, just like the dollops of purple potato which I thought fell flat on the plate.
The “intermezzo” was a light snack in between the fish dishes and the main meal. It was a beautiful sweet potato crisp sandwich with whipped ricotta in it and oh. my. gosh.
If a picture paints a thousand words… then this is the picture of THAT intermezzo.
Deliciousness was followed by deliciousness: a beautifully cooked cut of beef fillet with carrot puree and some vegetables. Now this was a testament to any chef’s mantra of keeping things uncomplicated but using the best produce and concentrating on making them shine. Both RocketMan and I felt the divine intervention on our palates, and the beef was cooked very well.
The cheese course was out of this world, and I love the fact that ODE featured it on a board representing the regions where they were from. I’ve not had much Portuguese cheese before but this course definitely put it in the map for me.
Pre-dessert was a welcome treat of simple fresh berries in cream.
And then RocketMan got an extra dessert of birthday cake. He also got a little nice souvenir from the team at ODE, which was quite sweet.
Birthday cake was apparently a special – and secret – recipe from the chef’s mother – nobody knows how to make it other than her. It’s a tradition that she makes this cake for birthdays. We were lucky to try it and were more than happy to investigate what it was made of.
I’m not sure but the texture was similar to cassava cake, but softer, sweeter and smoother. Yum!
And if the sweet stuff weren’t enough, our actual dessert came in the form of abade de priscos, a typical Portuguese dessert similar to a crème caramel pudding. It’s created by a priest in the 1800s and is made with bacon and tons of egg yolk. Now I’ve eaten a few leche flans to know that ODE’s was definitely one of the best I’ve had. It wasn’t overly sweet and the texture was firm enough but still had a good body for wiggle. Definitely a sweet end to the night.
We came out of ODE, both pleased and comfortably full, to a gorgeous night. The River Douro was lit by street lamps and the weather was very pleasant. We knew we needed a nightcap.
And a nightcap we had at Ere Uma Vez, a random bar we found downtown. We totally intended to stay for “just the one” but we ended up staying until the wee hours of the morning, dancing to alternative and rock music which we both love.
Verdict for ODE Porto Wine House
Suffice to say our experience at ODE was very good. Service was attentive but conscientious; our servers were informative but respectful of date night etiquette. Plus the nice present for RocketMan was a sweet touch.
As far as tasting menus go, this one showcased Porto’s produce at fine dining level and the concept of “slow food” was well executed. I very much enjoyed the flow of the dishes and portions were perfect (generous for some, if that). I’d totally go back in a heartbeat.
I also reckon the birthday boy had a pretty lovely happy meal.
And I did get brownie points after. #bestgirlfriend
ODE Porto Wine House
Largo do Terreiro 7, 4050-603 Porto, Portugal
+351 913 200 010