Sunday, May 8, 2011

Buhle - Porto, Portugal

Buhle came very highly recommended via TripAdvisor and Wallpaper Magazine. What mainly attracted me to this restaurant was their mixology bar. Since there is much sameness amongst the bars here, I hoped for something different and inspiring.
Close to the end of Avenida da Boavista, Buhle overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. If you look past the trees that are reflected above, you will see this panoramic view.
Buhle's boxy exterior hides the design gems found inside, but more on that later. Entering the restaurant is slightly difficult because you don't know whether to pull or push (puxe means pull in Portuguese). The hostess stand with its imposing reservation book is immediately inside. Reservations are strongly recommended - phone or email is sufficient. I was very pleased with their prompt attention to my email reservation request. Since I was early, that asked if I wanted a cocktail. Upon saying yes, I was taken to their cocktail seating area.

This area features low tables and complementing low chairs. If you're facing the hostess stand, the well stocked bar and wine racks are to your left, the sushi bar with flat screen television showing a live kitchen feed is directly behind. Restrooms are behind the sushi bar. To your right is the outdoor patio area with similar seating and tables as the cocktail area. There is a hallway with additional seating that connects to the main dining area.

I started with the Morning Glory cocktail. It features gin, ginger compote, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice. It was a bit sweet for me with a slight spicy finish. You'll notice it's slightly cloudy probably from the ginger compote. Since I was here to dine the drink cost €6, instead of €8 (bar only). Complimentary chips came with the drink also. Each table has a mixology menu, cha` (tea) menu, and Hendricks Gin menu.
The bar is where Buhle first did not live up to my expectations. For me, mixology engenders a sense of classic cocktails, fine ingredients, bar seating, a bartender's personality visible within his concoctions, bitters. There was no bar seating, most bottles sat behind glass doors, and my empty martini glass sat at table for 10+ minutes. You can look, but don't touch. Dance reference: lindy hoppers study Frankie Manning, the Spirit Moves, and other classic movie references, because they realize the old timers had "it", that elusive inspiring flavor. Likewise, it's a pleasure when you discover bars that feature classic cocktails from Jerry Thomas or the Savoy Cocktail Book. If you're into mixology, this is probably not the ideal bar.
Dinner was next. Once my dining companion arrived we were escorted to our dining table. Though seated next to their ticketing station, I never felt distracted. We ordered: Foie Gras & Douro Moscatel Terrine with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette (€13), Pork Curry & Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce (€7.5), Buhle Sushi Mix 10 pc (€13), and the White Bean Pastry with Almond Ice Cream and Egg Custard (€6.50). We were upcharged for the focaccia, bread, carrots with olive oil (€2.50 x 2 because we were two individuals not because we ordered two servings) and water (which they kept pouring without us asking). Be aware of the upcharges in Europe. If something appears on your table and you didn't order it, you will be charged if you eat it. Finally, their online Wok menu does not appear in paper form.
The spring rolls featured slightly chewy dough with some crunch. The pork was well spiced, not overpowering. The sweet chili sauce was a great complement.
Fatty, country, savory, layered flavors, creamy with solidity, complicated. This was my pictured foie gras with mel√£o (melon) and thin crunchy bread. It was wonderful and I want more. This made my evening.
The Buhle Mix 10 piece features 4 California rolls, 2 gambas, 2 thinly sliced salmon wrapped around cream cheese topped with strawberries, tuna, salmon, and other fruitful delights. The salmon and strawberry was fabulous, the mystery yellow fruit sweet with some bitter, and the tuna sumptuous.
The white bean pastry had a bonus apple flavor inside. The toasted slivered almonds were a nice touch. The almond ice cream was a bit sweet and lacking a distinct almond flavor.
Once dinner was finished, I could reflect on my remaining Buhle thoughts. Overall, it was merely a nice experience. It proved affordable at €57 total though it caters toward Porto's upperclass. The foie gras was outstanding, the sushi platter excellent (the best buy), but other elements were forgettable.

Sushi bar with television - no sushi bar seating, difficult to view their work
Cocktail and outdoor patio seating
Dining area seating
Birds' nest design in the private dining areas via linking corridor
Mirrored bathroom walls and doors (confusing trying to exit them to)
Nighttime after dining view
Forks are like little cartoon character hands only silvery and sharper looking

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