This March, we hosted a very special six day culinary tour to Porto, where we celebrated the fascinating and often unexpected links between Japanese and Portuguese food. We indulged in seafood dinners, Edo-style sushi, port tasting, suckling pig feast and the best of Porto’s street food… before culminating in a show-stopping dinner with chefs Vasco Coelho Santo and Tiago Cardoso da Silva to celebrate the unique union of two culinary powerhouses.
The connections between these two great cuisines on the other side of the world go back much further than most of us realise. In fact, the story between Portuguese and Japanese cuisine dates back nearly five hundred years, to a ship bound for China which got caught in a storm and ended up in Japan in 1543. What followed was decades of Portuguese migration to Japan, traders and missionaries who brought with them the foods of their homeland. Food like casatella (or kasutera, a light sponge cake) and many rich or sugary dishes in Japan in fact date from these early Portuguese encounters, and became known as Nanban cuisine. The most notable of them all is tempura, something we consider intrinsically Japanese, but which is actually rooted in Portugal.
The idea of our “Japan meets Portugal” dinner was born one year ago when Luxeat’s founder Aiste Miseviciute met kickboxer turned sushi chef Tiago Cardoso da Silva at his secret speakeasy sushi shop in Barcelona. Half Brazilian and half Portuguese, Tiago is originally from Porto. It seemed just natural to do something in Porto to celebrate the historical connection between Potugal and Japan, and so the idea was hatched.
“Japan meets Portugal” grew into a five day culinary journey and two very special dinners – the first a sushi omakase by Tiago at the iconic Niepoort wine cellars, and the second a four hands-dinner at Euskalduna Studio in collaboration with world renowned chef Vasco Coelho Santos. Vasco is one of the most important new generation chefs in Portugal at the moment, and has worked at such legendary restaurants at El Bulli. This one-off four hands dinner was a unique opportunity for our small group of gastronomes to experience the synergy when chefs Tiago and Vasco cooked together, exclusively for this event.
Their collaborative menu included inventive twists Portuguese and Japanese specialities from the best local ingredients one can get. Some of the highlights out of many were chawanmushi with Portuguese goose barnacles, local octopus takoyaki, beautiful dish of sea cucumber, Palamos prawn nigiri served with its head, wild Portuguese caught bluefin tuna by Tanaka.. nigiris. And to finish it all, pão de ló cakes baked by a local artisanal bakery and served with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Last, but definitely not least, sake and wine pairing by the one and only sake sommelier Pablo Alomar Salvioni, who served an exceptional and a very niche line up of sakes.
During the six day culinary tour we also delved into the culinary tapestry of Porto and the surrounding villages, eating and drinking our way around the city. We ate in rustic seafood bars and street food joints, soaked up the city with a renowned local architect, visited a tea plantation and feasted on suckling pig from the porco bisaro breed (one of the region’s most celebrated), as well as much, much more.
A rising star of Porto’s ever expanding dining scene, chef Vasco Coelho Santo is the creative mastermind behind Euskalduna Studio in the heart of the city. Vasco was born and bred in Porto, but has worked with some of the best names in Spain – at Mugaritz,Arzak, and El Bulli, to name a few– as well as London and Singapore, before deciding to set up his own project in his hometown. At Euskalduna Studio there is no separation between the kitchen and the dining room: customers see every stage of the cooking, and are invited to observe and interact as they dine. Each service is special and personal, designed to feel like a gastronomic journey where Portuguese ingredients are the star. The restaurant has already won a number of awards, and Vasco will be joining Luxeat as part of a grand dinner showcasing Japanese and Portuguese ‘fusion.’
Chef Tiago Cardoso da Silva
Portuguese born Tiago Cardoso da Silva is a Sushi Shokunin – the technical term for a sushi artisan – with a diverse background. Tiago’s wealth of experiences between Japan, Portugal, Barcelona, Ibiza and Bangkok provide him with unique skills, and we’re delighted that he’ll be co-hosting a one off dinner for our Luxeat event in March. Tiago founded his unique Omakase sushi speakeasy Jikasei in 2020. It was an instant success within the community, being fully booked within hours of opening reservations for the two first seasons. The chef believes deeply in not only the practical kitchen skills he learned under Japanese masters, but also the Japanese philosophy and culture associated with Washoku.