When your local hostel manager tells you excitedly that Ramiro is not only the best seafood restaurant in Lisbon, but probably the world, there is some skepticism. For one, she admitted she hadn't travelled particularly much and so couldn't have a benchmark against the great places around Scandinavia, Mediterranean and Japan/Asia. Nonetheless it was an accolade I had to try for myself.
With the unrivalled sashimi/sushi quality in Japan, the beautiful and expensive Alaskan crab legs in Norway, the salty caviar in Russia, the mussels of Lanzarote, the pen-shells in Barcelona and the overall fish in Croatia, I definitely had some memories that would take some beating. I can honestly say that two visits here gorging myself alone for dinner put this restaurant up into the stratosphere. This is one place you don't want to miss.
They don't take reservations. Each night a mob/queue of people linger outside waiting for a table. The manager doesn't write anything down. He just notes who you are and how many in your group. Then the wait begins. On my first night, I turned up around 8pm and waited 30mins. On the second night, I sat immediately at the time of 6pm. While waiting you tend to notice two things - there is space intentionally left between groups of people (which while you wait seems like a waste, but after you see seafood flying around, realise it is necessary), and the seafood on display is incredible.
Tanks of lobster, crab and shellfish, enormous prawns bigger than my hand all wait to be tasted.
Menu comes in the form of an iPad that shows pictures and a very simple worded description and price (maybe just for the non-Portugeuse speaking of us).
- buttered bread - it's automatic and you pay for it. I suggest not eating it to conserve stomach space, except to mop up some sauce (especially crab sauce);
- spiny murex - I hadn't tried this before and they ended up being a nice chewy snail with a mild ocean flavour. For a change or for those who don't like it heavy;
- sea barnacles - a local eating them on another table noticed my inquisitive look and said "they are good" with a nod and a smile. Oh my goodness. A saltier, sweeter ocean morsel than any I have tasted. Compared to oysters, it is much firmer and without the slight metallic tinge (both of which some people may prefer). The technique is simple - twist to break, and suck/chew the flesh;
- giant tiger prawns - at about 200g each (€12 each) these were bought for novelty and chew. The flesh is grilled and heavy salted. It isn't the best prawn I've ever had, but it is good and definitely the biggest;
- hairy crab - the head of the crab contains a milieu of crab meat, brains, butter and goodness. It is an enormously rich crab heavenly stock that works well with the bread;
- rock crab - this is pre-cooked and served cold. The flavour is much milder and the flesh is soft. It's nice, but the hairy crab is much more exciting.
Cracking of shells occasionally resulted in flickers flying across to the next table. They smiled, I apologised. Everyone is happily being fed here. For all of the above, I paid about €110 altogether. So definitely worth it.
Next time I would order hairy crab and sea barnacles without any shadow of a doubt. The prawns are nice and more filling and there's always the tank full of lobsters to pick from.