Bacalhau is king at Old Lisbon’s new location

Codfish croquettes with black eye peas from Old Lisbon.Linda Bladholm

The Portuguese staple bacalhau or salt cod is the star on the menu at Old Lisbon. In the time before refrigeration cod was salted and sun-dried to preserve it, and the tradition continues. Consider it the ham of the sea—amino acids and chemical changes occur producing mild, sweet, chewy, textured fish.

Enter to find a rustic but elegant space in Sunny Isles with inlays of decorative Portuguese tiles on white walls, wood accents and a full bar. Owner Carlos Silva opened the first Old Lisbon on Coral Way 25 years ago. He first came to the U.S. as an exchange student and studied marketing at St. Thomas University. He invited his high school friend Ricardo Goncalves from their hometown of Guimaraes in Northern Portugal to come and manage the newest location. Silva imports 14 tons of salt cod a year from Iceland and Norway, which is desalted in Portugal, arriving ready to cook without soaking.

Start With These Dishes

Alheira, a type of smoked ground chicken sausage seasoned with garlic, saffron and paprika from Old Lisbon.Linda Bladholm

Launch a meal here with alheira, a type of smoked ground chicken sausage seasoned with garlic, saffron and paprika. It is lightly breaded and fried, served with chopped carrots and celery with olives and red pepper strips. It was made by Jews living in Portugal during the inquisition to prove they ate pork. It tastes smoky with a crisp exterior and soft inside.

Codfish croquettes with black eye peas from Old Lisbon.Linda Bladholm

There’s also codfish croquettes bringing little puffs of salt cod plated with black eye peas. There’s also grilled octopus in garlic laced olive oil. Or get grilled sardines or shrimp in the tangy house made hot sauce.

Share These Dishes

Although there are steaks, lamb chops and pork loin sautéed with clams most customers come for seafood. Two can share the parrilhada de mariscos or grilled seafood. You get two spiny lobster tails, mussels and clams in the shell plus shrimp, salmon cubes, squid rings and scallops with melting soft steamed potatoes. The seafood feijoada here is very different from the Brazilian version. This has white beans stewed with sausage, clams, shrimp, mussels and squid with rice. Portuguese dishes often mix meat and seafood as in the cataplana de frutos de mar e terra. Lobster tail, shrimp, clams and mussels are stewed with slices of beef, garlic and onions served with potatoes. Get fillets of salt cod breaded and fried with mashed potatoes and olive oil, stewed in tomato sauce with clams, garlic and olive oil or deep-fried in creamy garlic sauce. Shredded salt cod comes baked with potatoes with cheese in a creamy sauce or stewed with rice, good with crisp young vinho verde white wine made for the restaurant.

Save Room For Dessert

Pears poached in port with cloves and cinnamon at Old Lisbon.Linda Bladholm

Try pears poached in port with cloves and cinnamon or pao de lo ovar, sponge cake with a sweet egg yolk custard filling.

Hidden Gems highlights out-of-the-way restaurants in Miami-Dade County. It is not intended to be an anonymous, critical review. For more Hidden Gems visit Miami.com.

Old Lisbon Portuguese Restaurant

Address:  17100 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles

Contact:  305-974-0038, oldlisbon.com

Hours:  Monday-Saturday noon-11 p.m., Sunday noon-10 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers $10-$15, soups/salads $8-$20, entrees $16-40, desserts $9

F.Y.I.  Executive lunch Monday-Friday noon-2 p.m. $15-$20, other locations are 1698 SW 22nd Street and 5837 Sunset Drive, South Miami