A world of flavors on a star-viewing menu

You pick up five chefs, who have six Michelin stars among them, and add the highest quality products, many of them […]

You pick up five chefs, who have six Michelin stars among them, you add the highest quality products, many of them of Algarve or Alentejo origin, a good dose of creativity and even a hint of madness – and that's how it's done. a dinner that is a real Route of the Stars.

The stage of this trip was the Ocean restaurant, in Vacation Specials, in Porches, Algarve, whose young chef, the Austrian Hans Neuner, was awarded the second Michelin star last November, just two years after receiving the first.

The dinner took place on one of the last weekends of May, and even had as one of the guests the captain of the Spanish football team Iker Casillas and his girlfriend Sara Carbonero.

The menu started with the amuse bouche of Dieter Koschina, the also Austrian chef from the neighboring Vila Joya (Albufeira), holder of two Michelin stars. And these amuse bouche, designed to wake up the palate to the tide of flavors that would follow until the end of the night, started with razor clam with lime mousse, or shrimp from the coast, quail egg, whey sauce and spicy horseradish, or also a chicken meatball, crispy chicken skin, shrimp and tapioca chip with sepia. Written like that, it doesn't even translate the delight of the flavors. All of these amuse bouche were accompanied by a white wine Riesling Weingut am Nil (2011).

This was followed by the host Hans Neuner's first proposal: smoked goose liver, fragoline ice cream (Italian grapes with strawberry flavour) accompanied by a special 30 year old Casa Santa Eufémia white reserve.

It was then the turn of the carabinero, coming directly from the fishing port of Vila Real de Santo António, as chef Benoît Sinthon (a star, Il Galo d'Oro, from Funchal) had explained a little earlier. The carabinero was accompanied by other very Algarvian products – rock shrimp, barnacles, corn polenta and cuttlefish sepia sauce.

And now it was time for the wines from Herdade dos Grous, the Alentejo property located in Albernôa, near Beja, and belonging to the Vila Vita group, to enter the scene. The carabineiro was thus accompanied by a white Herdade dos Grous (2010).

Then, to prepare the palate for what was to come, what the menu simply identified as "egg" arrived. Departed from the hands of the Portuguese Ricardo Costa (a star as chef of the «Yeatman», Vila Nova de Gaia), it was, if I'm not mistaken, an egg boiled for 45 minutes at 62 degrees. A delight of strange textures! (wine: 2008 Herdade dos Grous Reserva Magnum).

The meat was once again in charge of Hans Neuner: Nebraska Hereford calf entrecôte, raised in the pastures of Herdade dos Grous (wine: 2008 Herdade dos Grous Moon Harvested Magnum).

And it was also the creativity and skill of the young Ocean chef that resulted in the pre-dessert, eucalyptus meringue with a raspberry air.

As for the dessert, entitled «Symphony of the Pearl of the Atlantic», presented by pastry chef Yves Michouxm (also from Il Galo d'Oro, from Funchal), it was a delicious – and ingenious – way of presenting typical Madeira fruits, such as passion fruit, banana, pineapple, papaya. Accompanied by a late harvest from Herdade dos Grous (2008), it was the perfect shot for a truly star-studded meal.

This Star Route dinner, which this time took place at the Ocean to commemorate the recent award of the two stars of the famous red guide to Hans Neuner, cost 180 euros, excluding wines. But usually a 4-course menu costs 135 euros per person and a 6-course menu is 155 euros. Wines cost between 65 (4 courses) and 85 euros (6) per person.

The ingredients – and that's why the dishes – change regularly, not least because Hans Neuner only uses seasonal produce, fresh and fresh from the garden or from the sea. The meat, as already mentioned, comes from Herdade dos Grous, the same place that supplies organic fruits and vegetables, olive oil and wines. All of this, complemented by the friendliness and discreet efficiency of the room staff and the charm of the space, make dining at the Ocean restaurant an unforgettable experience.

After having been in Funchal, Lisbon, Coimbra and the Algarve, Route of the Stars will continue in Porto (The Yeatman, 14 and 15 June), return to Lisbon (Feitoria, 7 and 8 September) and the Algarve (Vila Joya, 19 and 20 October) and finish in Cascais (Fortaleza do Guincho, 16 and November 17).


Jabugo ham and caviar to open the night


On this night of Rota de Estrelas, the gastronomic experiences were not limited to dinner (and that would be more than enough). They started about two hours earlier with a tasting of pata negra ham from Jabugo, in Andalusia.

Bruno Costa, representative in Portugal of the brand «Jabu», made known not only the ham but also the delicacy of the palate of the palette (hand), and also the rich flavors of sausages made with the meat of this pork, fattened with acorn and chestnut, in most of them freely grazing in the mountains of Aracena.

This was followed by a caviar tasting. The journey through the taste of sturgeon roe, which has become one of the most appreciated and expensive gourmet products in the world, began with caviar from Mississippi, in the United States of America.

It is, as explained by Bruno Costa (who also represents the Dutch company House of Caviar & Fine Food in Portugal), the «only river caviar in the world, but also the saltiest of all», a «strange but peculiar characteristic ».

The price of this caviar was also the most cheap of all four that would be tasted that evening, with Bruno Costa depositing a tiny pile of sturgeon roe in each person's hand: 1500 euros per kilo.

This was followed by a caviar produced in France, in the Aquitaine region. It is caviar extracted from sturgeon reared in aquaculture in this French area, brought here directly from Siberia by Napoleon in the early 3500th century. The caviar itself, explained Bruno Costa, has a “creamyer” texture and a “creamyer taste in the mouth”. The price? XNUMX euros per kilo.

It was then the turn of Kaluga, a caviar, imagine, “made in China”! But, because it is caviar produced from the same fish as the famous Iranian Beluga, in a lake that manages to recreate most of the natural conditions of the Caspian Sea, it turns out to be an “absolutely fantastic” product. Price: 5000 euros per kilo.

And finally comes the caviar of caviars: the Iranian Beluga, produced from wild sturgeon, fished in the Caspian Sea, fish which, due to this capture and the change in ecological conditions in that sea, are seriously threatened with extinction. The result of this is that in Europe, legally, it is not possible to sell (or buy) Beluga caviar, imported from Iran, since 2010.

And then how come that tasting at the «Ocean» restaurant had Beluga? Is that the House of Caviar, using the subterfuge of being a company based in the Netherlands to produce caviar – and thus not, in the strict sense, an import – manages to bypass this impediment of European rules…

The result of this rarity, the ban – and the quality, by the way – is that Beluga is the “most expensive food product in the world”: 11.500 euros per kilo.

All these gastronomic rarities – from Jabugo ham to caviars – were accompanied by «Blanc des Blancs Ruinart» champagne.


Vila Vita Parc Resort & Spa, Alporchinhos, Porches, Lagoa.

Reservations: 282 310 100 or [email protected]

Open from Thursday to Monday, from 19pm.

Capacity of 35 places (children from 12 years old only).