Cafeina is one of the more highly regarded restaurants in Porto. Although it has not been awarded a Michelin star, it is mentioned in the Michelin Guide. Given the accolades expectations were somewhat high.
We came for a late lunch, and the dining room was fairly empty but became a little more crowded as our meal progressed.
As with most restaurants in Portugal, the meal started with a bread service that included an olive tapenade, butter and olives. We didn’t try any of them so I cannot comment about the taste.
The Grilled Scallop with Asparagus (€9.5) was a pretty solid way to start the meal. The scallop was browned, but didn’t have a great sear and was medium rare in the middle. They did seem to skimp on the portion, as the scallop seemed like it was cut in half since it was pretty thin. The asparagus was cooked well and retained some bite to it, while the charred bits added a smoky flavor, along with being wrapped in bacon. The cauliflower mousseline was very flavorful, and I could have eaten much more of it.
The Grated Goat Cheese in Puff Pastry (€7) came nicely plated. The puff pastry had a nice golden brown crust, while the goat cheese was nice and creamy but overpowered the dish. The richness of the dish was offset by the rocket salad and pepper chutney.
The Foie Gras Escalope (€10) was a thin slice of foie gras paired with chestnuts and mushrooms. The foie gras was too thin and was overcooked and rubbery. Instead of having a nice pink middle, this was on the verge of being almost complete brown inside. The chestnuts added some sweetness, while the mushrooms added some earthiness. I think this dish would have improved immensely if the foie gras was served in a thicker slice like most restaurants.
The Flame Grilled Tiger Prawn with Flavored Tagliolini (€20) came with four nice meaty and tender prawns that had been deshelled. This was paired with a nice al dente pasta but the sauce was very salty. The sauce tasted as though it was made from shrimp stock.
The Roasted Grouper (€18.5) had a nice sear resulting in a super crispy skin. The fish remained moist and tender, and flaked easily but could have been improved with some salt. The portion of fish was also very small for the price point. This was paired with fresh tomatoes in a “salsa verde”
The grouper was served with a tomato rice, which looked like tomato soup with rice in it. I am not a fan of cooked tomatoes, but the rice was actually pretty good and didn’t taste “soupy” despite its appearance.
We decided to skip on dessert, as we had plenty to eat. In some ways, I can see how Cafeina made its way into the Michelin Guide. The food was mostly well prepared and presentation was fabulous. I think serving a whole, plump scallop and a thicker piece of foie gras would have improved those dishes. Service was friendly, but not stellar. The wait staff would disappear for long periods of time.