Restaurant Belcanto is the gastronomic restaurant of the famous Chef José Avillez, located on a premium location in Chiado, the historical centre of Lisbon in Portugal. This beautiful area is the culinary heart of the city, with plenty of bars and restaurants where one can sample the very best from the Portuguese cuisine. José Avillez is one of the driving forces of the culinary movement in this part of the city, and the chef manages no less than seven restaurants in the area.
The original Belcanto restaurant was opened in 1958. The name Belcanto derives from the opera style and the famous national opera house in Lisbon is located only a few metres from the restaurant. José Avillez took over the restaurant in 2012 and totally renovated it again in 2016. Today, the interior of restaurant Belcanto is bright, combining lots of wood, green chairs, and luxurious elements. There is a cosy chef’s table in the kitchen, where two to three diners can enjoy the spectacle of the chefs.
Chef Patron José Avillez gained experienced in restaurants like El Bulli, where he worked in the creativity team. Afterwards he got the invitation to work at the famous Tavares in Lisbon, where he totally changed the restaurant and quickly gained recognition from the gastronomic world. In 2011 he decided to leave and opened not one, but two restaurants: Cantinho Do Avillez (2011) and Belcanto (2012). In 2013 the busy chef opened a pizzeria, Pizzeria Lisboa, and another restaurant, Café Lisboa, at the opera house just next to Belcanto. In 2014 he opened restaurant Mini Bar, and his first restaurant in Porto, Cantinho Do Avillez Porto. Today the Chef he has no less than seven restaurants and restaurant Belcanto is the gastronomic flagship of the group.
What makes the kitchen of restaurant Belcanto so special is the fact that the chef combines interpretations from authentic Portuguese dishes with creative touches. In that process he only uses the exact amount of products necessary to (re)construct that dish. All ingredients have a clear role and not one too many is used. One can clearly feel the influences from El Bulli, especially in the appetisers, but other dishes like the Cozido à Portuguesa is an amazing interpretation of the classical Portuguese dish, brought with respect for the original but with personal, creative touches from the chef.
The dessert with mandarin is exceptional in terms of flavours and experience. It derives from a childhood memory from the chef where children went searching for mandarins that felt from the trees. At Belcanto, the mandarin is a reconstruction filled with mandarin foam, on a custard of mandarin, and accompanied with a sorbet of mandarin. A crumble of mushrooms finishes the dish and refers to the earth where the mandarins were found. In his kitchen José Avillez is assisted by his right hand Head Chef David Jesus and a driven, international team. The staff works dedicated and in utmost concentration in the kitchen. The fine wines at Belcanto are superb and the perfect accompaniment of the dishes coming out of the kitchen.
Restaurant Belcanto is a truly exceptional restaurant in the centre of Lisbon. Chef José Avillez clearly is one of Portugal’s gastronomic wonders and we are curious to see how the chef and his restaurant emporium will evolve in the future.
Written by Sven & Frank