Cantina 32 is a relatively new restaurant in Porto, and one of the harder reservations to get. I knew Cantina 32 was popular, but didn’t realize that advanced reservations were almost a must. After speaking with the concierge at the Intercontinental, he offered to call the restaurant to see if they had any openings. Luckily, there was an opening for the following day.
The restaurant is on the smaller side, and is decorated like a home. Exposed wood beams, and shelves with dishes and knickknacks.
There is even a bike adorning the walls.
For the first time during the trip, we engaged in the bread service, mainly to try the infamous banana butter. The bread had a nice crispy crust, and a pillowy soft and chewy middle. The butter was sprinkled with chunks of salt. The butter had a distinct but subtle banana flavor in the back of your throat.
The bread course also came with olives and lupine beans, which we did not try.
The Pumpkin Cream Soup (3.50) was kind of disappointing. It tasted like pureed vegetables with pumpking oil on top. It was missing any cream or dairy to give it some body. The soup also contained orange, which added a nice brightness, sweetness and acidic punch. The chives helped to give an added punch of flavor.
The Iceberg Lettuce Salad (€7) came with poached pears, nuts, crispy onions, bacon and Parmesan cheese. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, but the amount of cheese tended to overpower all of the other ingredients.
The Sautéed Octopus with Sweet Potato (€8.50) contained tender octopus that tasted like it was overcooked as it was slightly mushy. This lightened the octopus taste, which can be a little strong for some people. The sweet potato added a slight sweetness and earthiness to the dish. The portion was also rather generous.
The Portobello with Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, Bacon & Red Pepper Jam (€8.50) comes with two fairly large Portobello mushrooms. Topped with caramelized onions (which could have cooked for a longer to really bring out its inherent sweetness), oozing goat cheese (which was creamy and earthy), bacon and a sweet red pepper jam. The red pepper jam was a little too sweet for my liking, but overall this was a solid dish. The pears were cold, but the bacon and fried onions/shallots topping the dish were lost from the taste of the goat cheese and/or red pepper jam.
The Beef Carpaccio (€9.50) came with truffle sauce and shaved foie gras. The carpaccio was cut very thinly and had a nice beef flavor. The beef was tender, and the foie gras was thinly shaved and immediately melted on the tongue as soon as it hit. The rocket (arugula) helped to cut the richness and added a peppery punch to the dish.
The Legendary Tiger Prawns (€28) came three to an order. The prawns were cooked well and were meaty, but still tender at the same time. The garlic butter and lemon paired very well with the prawns. The prawns aren’t as big as the ones at Ramiro, but are still a solid choice.
The Grilled Chuck Eye Steak (€25) was cooked to a nice medium rare. The beef was very tender and flavorful. Roasted potatoes and garlic also came with the dish. The potatoes were nice and creamy, while the garlic’s punch was toned down by roasting it while also bringing out the natural sugars of the garlic.
The Cheesecake (€3.50) is their signature dessert, and rightfully so. The cheesecake comes in a surreal presentation of a potted plant. The “dirt” are cookie crumbles. The cheesecake is thick and creamy. Caramelized bananas loom just beneath the dirt. The cheesecake does more than live up to the shock value appearance.
Cantina 32 is one of the most popular restaurants in Porto. Although it will likely never get a Michelin star, a trip here is well worth it during any visit.