Portuguese food is my so-called comfort food. It's the food that I grew up eating everyday. It's the food I looked forward to eating only after the age of 7- or 8-years-old. Before that, I admit, I would often stare at it at the table while pressured by my mother to eat. I still have no interest in eating pea soup with chourcio and eggs, but there are many other dishes that I crave everyday. Now, I make the 30 minute drive to mom's house every weekend, happily anticipating what's for dinner. I recall having great meals at home, at my grandparent's home, at my aunts' and uncles' homes, and distant cousin's homes. The meals came in a much greater variety than what you generally see at local Portuguese restautants, but it's the same difference you see between going to an Italian restaurant and going to your Italian friend's house.
As in any ethnic community, the ethnic (Portuguese) restaurants in Fall River started off very traditional and pretty much serving just the local ethnic community. With time, the restaurants earned a following outside the "community" and with the eventual new generation going into the business, the restaurants became less tradional, more gentrified and Americanized. The dishes on the menu were translated into English. A child's menu was added. Fish no longer served with bones. A few menu items started stepping out beyond the usual. And the staff is not necessarily Portuguese. I'm OK with this.
Estoril seems to me to be one of these places.
Upon walking in to Estoril, I immediately noticed that it's not the typical mom and pop Portuguese restaurant. Once in, you find yourself right in the middle of a large sitting lounge with a bar up ahead. On this night, there was live music - no, not Fado -but a singer with his guitar cranking through the kinds of sing-alongs you'd expect at a pub. My friend and I walked into the dining room, which was also a little unusual. The walls are blood red. The furniture was decorative and little worn, as if purchased at an estate sale. And the staff was young and not Portugese.
Amêijoas à Espanhola and Chouriço Bombeiro
So, we ordered. There's an OK wine list. I had a simple red, nothing major. We ordered two apps. The Spanish-style little necks (Amêijoas à Espanhola) were really good. The clams were fresh. The sauce was nicely spicey, but there wasn't enough of it to truly call it a sauce. There was no broth, so you couldn't dunk your bread into it, which might be the main point of this dish. No biggie, it was still good. We also split the other app, what Estoril calls "Flaming Chourico", or traditionally referred to as Chourico Bombeiro. Take a whole link of Portuguese sausage, grill it good, then serve it flambé style - super simple and super good.
Portuguese Beef Shish-Kabob and Chicken Estoril
In the recent past, Estoril has won a local award for the "Best Portuguese Steak". I looked over the menu for something different, but nothing grabbed me, so in the end I selected the Shish Kabob for the grilled meat, grilled onions and grilled green peppers. It was great. The meat was really well-seasoned, and well-charred like I like it. The Portuguese fries were good. The vegetables... eh. I'm not a fan of the little carrots you get in the grocery stores in a bag that are often sitting on office desks for those dieters who graze all day at work. My friend has the Chicken Estoril. The sauce was as dark as any sauce I've ever seen - oddly dark considering it's a sherry "cream" sauce. I didn't taste it, but my friend assured me that it was quite good.
I enjoyed Estoril. And looking around, a lot of other people did, too.
1577 Pleasant Street
Fall River MA 02723