This past week, while in Oporto conducting a workshop on social media and wine, I had the pleasure of dining at Quarenta e 4, a new restaurant in the town of Matosinhos, near to Oporto. Hidden within a stark and empty street, this isn’t a place you stumble across without a map or really good directions, but it’s absolutely worth the adventure.
Quarenta e 4 is a mix of modern and classical design, blanketed in deep red tones and highlighted by a brilliant crystal chandelier. To be honest, it’s a bit eerie, but welcoming enough that you feel cozy and warm inside. But word to the wise, make sure to opt for the center table versus the benches lining the walls. From our experience, the benches were tight and uncomfortable, especially when the table was pushed farther towards the wall to make room for others.
Yet despite our awkward seating, the food was fantastic. We started with mini bread with sweet tomato bites, a variety of exquisite cured hams, and a small bowl of high quality olive oil to dip our homemade bread. This was followed by an array of tapas, including: grilled wild mushrooms, eggs with asparagus and shrimp and freshly pressed foie gras – each dish prepared to perfection. The foie was as smooth and creamy with a light glaze of PX over the top. One can’t complain with such an incredible spread.
The main courses, which we shared, included an amazing baked filet of Rodovalho, or Turbot. The only drawback was that it was paired with simple vegetable medley and a shrimp rice that was much too salty and rich to complement the exquisite delicate nature of the Turbot. But let it be known that the Turbot was to die for, and regardless of the side dish, nothing could take away from its perfection. The next dish was a fabulous, yet pedestrian, pork filet with a side of scrumptious scalloped potatoes and mixed vegetables. Both dishes, while not eye popping, did show great potential; but I still highly suggest ordering the fish.
3 dessert selections were presented in small portions: a white chocolate cream/mousse, fresh strawberries with a salt-mint ice cream and balsamic glaze, and something called massa de sonhos, which is a donut in shape filled with white chocolate cream. For a person who is not keen on desserts, these were amazing. The strawberry and salted-mint ice cream was by far the best dish, with the salt brightening the flavors of the mint and berries. Bravo.
We ended with a creamy and rich espresso and hopes of returning. As for the wines, we chose 3, and while none were paired particularly well with the dishes, the 1995 Murganheira Reserva was by far the highlight of the show: lightly toasted minerals with lemony whispers and dark honey after thoughts. I would have drank this through the entire meal, and it reminded me that Portugal is capable of making some of the finest Sparkling wines around.