As much as I love going out to eat here in the US, I do miss eating Portuguese food that I haven’t made myself. I’m also really interested in evaluating the quality and authenticity of Portuguese restaurants abroad. Unlike Italian or Thai food, it can be really tricky to find Portuguese food abroad, and even harder to find Portuguese restaurants that you want to keep going back to. So, it was with a mix of hesitation and wishful thinking that I went with my husband and another couple to a restaurant called Pavilion Barbecue in Riverside, NJ.
I was very excited to read that they make their own bread daily – and it did not disappoint! It was the best bread I’d eaten since I was last in Portugal. Even by Portuguese standards it was very good. With it, came some little packs of butter (so typical in Portugal) and black olives. We ordered the shrimp in garlic sauce (Camarão à Guilho) and the fried calamari (Lulas fritas) to share. They were both sizeable and good. We tried to order four different mains – we were four people, after all – but our server told us it was way too much food. We appreciated her honesty in advising us correctly instead of trying to make more money from us. We then shared the seafood rice (Arroz de marisco) and the pork cubes with clams and fried potatoes (Carne de porco à Alentejana). This was more than enough food and we even ended up taking leftovers home. Obviously, we were too full for dessert. My American friends really enjoyed the meal and overall it was better than I was expecting (especially that bread!). It wasn’t the best Portuguese food I’ve eaten abroad, but it was good home-style cooking and I got second helpings of each dish. I’m sure I’ll go back again and I’d certainly encourage people to try it if they live close-by.
The server (whom I believe was also one of the owners), Maria Celeste, was very friendly and helpful. You get great value for money because the portions are so large, and it’s BYOB so you can bring your own wine to dinner. The restaurant itself is clean and simple, but the decor is nothing special or fancy. It’s much more suited to a big group of people who want to try new foods, share some big dishes and have a fun evening together than it is for a romantic date. Bom apetite!