Dining dilemma in Oporto
The lower half of the walls are adorned with the characteristic Portuguese blue-and-white tiles, while the top half is splashed in a spicy brown mustard hue. Oversized white cloth napkins partially cover the table while (once again) blue-and-white checkered tablecloths finish the job. Two stacked plates of differing sizes read O TITO, bordered by silverware and a green-and-white sachet of bread resting at the top of the plate.
It’s 19:21 and I’m the first diner on a quiet, low-season Friday night. A group that I assume are Tito employees are dining and laughing at a center table, where a silver pot likely contains a sort-of seafood stew to share.
This restaurant was recommended to me by not one, but two separate Porto locals. Anticipating a wait due to assumed popularity, I caught an early bus out of Porto’s center to travel the 30 minutes west to the coastal town of Matosinhos, a fairly small fishing villages where Rua Heróis de Franç a is dotted with seafood restaurants and open-air grills.
The charcoal had just been lit when I prematurely arrived, slightly before sunset. I took the extra time to finally sample the much talked-about Porto-tonic, a local libation of white Port wine, tonic, and lemon, reminiscent of a white wine spritzer. It was easy to understand how refreshing it would be on a hot summer day. But on November 2, it was also appreciated.
One Porto-tonic down, I was still way too early for Tito’s opening time of 7 p.m., so I spent my remaining 45 minutes wandering the handful of Matosinhos avenues.
I trepidatiously entered the brightly lit space of Tito’s at about 7:10 in an effort to avoid seeming too eager. An older white-haired man led me past tables with Reservado placards, so at least others were due to arrive at some point…
Promptly at 7:40, three other parties filed in, all ogling my single serving of grilled calamari bathed in red pepper-infused olive oil.
After I submitted my order to the same older man, I felt a bit uneasy. He had confirmed my “60 grams” of fish and half-liter of dry white wine, hopefully not taking advantage of our language barrier by up-selling me on both.
He returned a few minutes later with the pre-cooked sole to show me the size that we had agreed upon in broken English. My eyes widened and wallet tightened. At 24 euros for 1 kilogram, I asked him for the weight. “Sixty grams,” he replied, but that seemed like such a small amount compared with the freshly caught fish before me.
I nodded in agreement, not really sure whether (or how) to protest. I suppose the conta will tell.