As a western American, I am genetically predisposed, and culturally raised, to love a good steak. Alas, while the Portuguese are superlative chefs with pork, lamb, goat, and any number of fish and shellfish species, they’re not so great with beef — at least, not in the form I want it. You know, the inch-thick slab o’ meat, pink in the center and marked with the parallel black bars of a grill.
There is a restaurant in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisboa called the Cervejaria Trindade, which is known for its beef steaks. And my wife finally took me there, along with our guests. (Why she waited five years, I’m not sure, but the final bill might have had something to do with it.) She made a reservation, which was a good thing, because by the time our food arrived the wait line was out the door.
The Cervejaria is in the refectory of an old monastery, and is known for two things: its steaks, and the brilliant azulejos that decorate its walls. We were intrigued by the azulejos, which feature quite a few topless women, leading to the question of why that décor would be used in a monastery. (We learned later that they were installed after the monastery had already been converted to a brewery, which took a lot of the fun out of it. Dang.)
Three of us ordered a steak with the brewery’s proprietary sauce, while the fourth ordered a grilled steak. They were all perfect: tender, delicious, and cooked exactly to our specifications.
The sauced steaks came with rather large bowls of fried potatoes, which I’m sure were just as low-calorie as the buttery, garlicky sauce we dipped them into. Fortunately, we had icy cold beer on tap to wash it down.
It was a delicious meal, and one I’m eager to repeat. After all, there are several steaks on the menu, and I’ll need to test them all. You know, just to prepare for future guests.
Interesting grammar fact: The second version of the Trindade monastery was destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1755. (The original, inaugurated in 1325, burned to the ground in 1708.) Its neighboring hilltop monastery, the Convento do Carmo, also suffered great destruction in the quake, thus wiping out the two most notable buildings of the entire neighborhood and leading to a saying that is still used today: Caiu o Carmo e a Trindade (“the Carmo and Trindade fell”), which is invoked to describe a great tragedy.