Find a taste of Portugal at Lisboa Grill in Key Biscayne

Lisboa Grill photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald
Lisboa Grill photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald

Lisboa Grill, set in a corner of the Galleria Shopping Center in Key Biscayne, offers Portuguese dishes with plenty of bacalhau (salt cod), a staple of Iberian cuisine.

Named for the capital Lisbon, meaning “safe harbor,” the 6-month-old place features white tablecloths and a logo of the caravels (ships) that plied the seas during the “age of discovery” in the 15th and 16th centuries, when Portugal was a world power and had an empire from Africa to Brazil. The name Portugal is derived from the Roman Portus Cale or Port of Cale, referring to the inlet at the mouth of the Douro River.

Owner Joaquin Bras is from Bragas in northern Portugal but lived for many years in Venezuela, where he ran a bakery. He also owns Moises Bakery (7310 Collins Ave.) in Miami Beach and Jardim de Portugal (2960 Coral Way) in Miami. 

He met his Cuban-born wife, Jacqueline, in Caracas when she made a delivery to the bakery from her father who was a distributor and had moved the family from Havana when she was 19. Both families left in 1989 to start over in Miami, where Joaquin and Jacqueline married (her father is Portuguese). 

Jacqueline Bras runs Lisboa, greeting and seating customers — many are Brazilians, Venezuelans and Colombians who reside on Key Biscayne and have welcomed the first Portuguese restaurant on the key with chef Fernando Santos at the helm of the kitchen. 

Order a glass of crisp Casal Mendes vinho verde to accompany codfish and potato croquettes with a side of black-eyed pea and parsley salad or a bowl of potato-thickened caldo verde with ribbons of collard greens and slices of chorizo drizzled in olive oil. Be sure to ask for a bottle of hot piri piri sauce for a hit of heat. 

Meat dishes include pork-loin chunks cooked with clams and potatoes in white wine garlic sauce; grilled lamb chops and filet mignon in Port wine sauce. For seafood try grilled lagostins (giant tiger prawns) in cream sauce with crisp-fried potato cubes and steamed vegetables; grilled Portuguese sardines with roasted peppers, potatoes and olives; or paelha (seafood rice) with lobster, clams, shrimp, squid and mussels. 

Bacalhau is stewed in tomato sauce; grilled with garlic and onions; sautéed and topped with cheese in creamy onion sauce; mixed with scrambled eggs and fried potatoes; and served as Gomes de Sa, a casserole of salted and potatoes with hard cooked eggs, black olives, garlic, onions and olive oil. 

Finish with light-as-air pudim molotov, an egg white flan pooled in sabayon sauce, perfect with a glass of tawny Port.

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.