Tucked a couple of blocks in from South Main Street, about a mile from the Tiverton RI line, hides the Lusitano Restaurant. Walking into a Portuguese restaurant on any given night generally presents you with a familiar scene — friends and families in large groups crowding their tables with food, drink and lots of lively conversation. But tonight, a Saturday night at Lusitano, the atmosphere is a little more quiet and even romantic as a dining room of mostly couples enjoyed their meals in anticipation of what would turn out to be a lively evening of Lusophone song and dance.
cod fish cakes and Amêijoas à Lusitano
We were met at the door by the friendly owner, Maria Soares, who was very sincere in her hospitality. She and her husband, Horace, have owned and operated the Lusitano for over thrity years. After placing our order, she offered a complimentary cup of their hearty Portuguese kale soup with potato, chourico, kidney beans, carrots and elbow macaroni in a clear broth — delicious. We had ordered two apps - cod fish cakes and Amêijoas à Lusitano (little neck clams with chourico in broth). The cod fish cakes were good; salty, light and fluffy. However, the little necks were insanely amazing. Yes, the clams were fresh and flavorful- you could tell by their crisp, sea-salty juiciness. But the broth — the broth! It was difficult to put the bread down and not ruin my appetite for filling up on bread soaked thoroughly in this broth of clam juice with fresh and still-firm bell pepper, onion and garlic. After three rolls of bread, I finally got a grip and pulled away. It made my night and we could have left right then and there. But we didn't.
Caldeirada de Peixe and Filets à Lusitano
Our main courses were the Caldeirada de Peixe (stew of fish) and Filets à Lusitano. The latter was a good dish of breaded fillets served with roasted potatoes and rice topped with a spicy tomato-based sauce and garnished with chopped bell pepper and onion. The former, the fish stew, was served bubbling hot in quite a large vessel. In the pot were fresh, plump and delicious morsels of grouper, cod, salmon, scallop, shrimp, squid, more little necks and roasted potatoes. I have to mention that the seafood at Lusitano Restaurant is better than most I've had. It's the freshness and the preparation that set it apart in my mind. You can taste the freshness and the different flavors of the seafood ingredients all while they are kept in harmony by the complementary broth. This is one of the more elegant seafood dishes I've experienced in any restaurant.
It was during our main course that the music started to play. Fado, sung quite competently fill the room with accompanying keyboard - I know it's not a guitarra, but that's alright. Then from the diners came requests. One of the diners - I presume a regular - came up and sang a Sinatra song and an Elvis song (fine, whatever, it was harmless). Then as diners came and went onto the dance floor, the Fado singer and keyboard player went into a medley of more fado, Portuguese pimba, Brazilian samba and Brazilian forró. It was really enjoyable to watch all these couples - young and old - have such a great time. Maria and Horace led everyone - like everyone, except us - into a Chamarrita. This is an organized dance usually seen at feasts in traditional folcloric costume, and even at modern weddings, where one person calls out a number of actions and commands that the group, as couples, follows (kinda/sorta) in what looks like a mix of square dancing and line dancing. It all culminated in a conga-like train of dancers that weaved through all the tables in the dining room passing by us about three or four times. This was unexpected and I was quite amazed to see this, but I have to say, it was really fun and brought back a million memories of the portuguese feasts and weddings I attended as a child with my family and even some of the those I saw while I lived in Lisbon as a student. It was fun. A really fun night.
822 King Philip Street
Fall River MA 02724-2420