Portuguese cuisine is perhaps one of the most underrepresented cuisines in NYC, and no one in the city has done more to showcase the country’s culinary influence than chef George Mendes. From his time at the flagship restaurant Aldea, I’ve always admired the food from chef Mendes’ kitchen that still delivers rustic yet sophisticated touch to the dishes. Lupulo, drawing inspiration from a beer bar in Portugal, delivers more of day-to-day gastropub-style food compared to Aldea, but my recent re-visit after my first one bout a year ago shows that the restaurant still more or less delivers when it comes to a satisfactory meal.
There is nothing fancy about the food at Lupulo in terms of ingredients or techniques, but you can tell everything is fresh and well-executed and there is something quite effortless about the way the kitchen approaches the food. It is one of those places where food can go in perfect harmony with diverse beer and wine selections at the counter that makes you feel you’re somewhere inside a fish market. Portuguese mackerel spread on sourdough toasts was certainly a pleasant start to the meal without being overly salty despite having mackerel in it, although the charred cucumber and Maine razor clam salad was a little bit underwhelming by having a little too much citrusy flavor to it. Things have gotten a lot better in larger dishes. The chicken “piri-piri” that I had immensely enjoyed on my last visit was still as juicy and tender as I had remembered.
Grilled octopus with chickpea and celery salad, romesco and cilantro was another winner, with perfectly grilled octopus that worked so harmoniously with chickpea for hearty touch that was quite memorable. The show-stopper of the night belonged to the large pot of salt cold casserole with potato, onion, black olive and egg. I was initially concerned that the kitchen might put too much salt into the dish that could be overwhelming to my taste bud; to my surprise, the moderation of seasoning really made this dish shine and my dining companions and I just couldn’t stop digging the awesome combination of sale cod along with the other ingredients. For dessert, the simple assortment of gelatos and sorbets turned out to be the smart choice. One of my dining companions raved about banana gelato, and strawberry passion fruit sorbet was delightfully refreshing to cleanse my palate after all the rustic savory dishes.
The restaurant, unlike my previous visit, started taking reservations which still seem manageable as long as you avoid peak hours. There are diverse selections of beer and wine (try a glass or two from Portugal in particular if you feel more adventurous). The lively pub feel to the restaurant would make this place ideal for a casual dinner with friends or first date. I’m glad that Lupulo still delivers when it comes to showcasing well-executed food faithful to the flavor and texture of Portugal. I haven’t been to Aldea in years so my re-visit should come shortly to check out how the sister restaurant has evolved over time.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 835 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Telephone: (212) 290-7600