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(Posted 3:30 p.m., Feb. 18)
Orléans newest dining establishment a Portuguese delight

By Mike Beasley
The Orléans Star

Fernando Diniz is the owner of Restaurante Caravelo located on Innes Road next to Food Basics. Fred Sherwin/Photo

I must admit that I’ve never been to Portugal. In fact, before I visited Restaurante Caravela on Innes Road last week, all I knew about Portuguese cuisine is that it is big on seafood and my knowledge of Portuguese wine began and ended with Mateus. Was I ever in for an education, and a delicious one at that.

Caravela is just the latest addition to Orléans culinary land-scape – and what a welcome addition it is.

Owned and operated by Fernando Diniz, the restaurant, which is located beside Food Basics, offers a “Taste of Portugal” that will leave you wanting to come back again and again.

During my first visit to Caravela, I deferred my menu choices to Mr. Diniz who wisely suggested I try the garlic shrimp and Portuguese chouriço as appetizers. Both dishes were stunning, leaving my mouth watering for the main course – which also happens to be the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in quite some time.

As it turns out, while Portugal is famous for its seafood, it is also the birthplace of Piri-Piri chicken and something called Alcatra, which is very popular among the residents of the Azorean island of Terceira where Diniz is originally from.

Alcatra is essentally a pot roast that is slow-cooked in a traditional clay pot after marinating for 24 hours in red wine, onions and garlic. It is served with boiled potatoes, fingerling carrots, cauliflower and broccoli and is out of this world. It is hard for me to even describe, it was so good. And although they serve it with a steak knife I could easily cut it with the edge of my spoon.

To further bring out the flavour, manager and resident sommelier Henrique Granja suggested I try the Vila Regia which was an excellent choice.

One thing you may notice when you look over Caravela’s menu is that it is devoid of any desserts. At first I thought it was a bit odd until I saw the portion sizes. By the time I had sopped up the last drops of juice on my plate, the only thing I had room for was an expresso and a traditional after-dinner aperatif called Beirao, which provided the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

On my next trip to Caravela, I plan to try the Cataplana which is a type of seafood stew that is cooked in a special domed vessel. The dish is native to the Algarve region located in the southern most area of mainland Portugal.

Sticking with the theme that more is better, Chef Jose Lemos stocks each Cataplana with chunks of lobster, crab meat, white fish and mussels. It is the perfect dish for a twosome, or served with the Alcatra if you and your dining companion are particularly hungry.

Of course, Caravela also serves a number of other Portuguese delicacies including cod cakes, salt cod, sea bass, grilled octopus and squid, and the aforementioned Piri-Piri chicken which is cooked in a special state-of-the-art oven that cooks at an extremely high temperature and seals in all the juices.

Diniz is understandably proud of his establishment and rightfully so. When he and his wife immigrated to Canada in 1985 he couldn’t speak a word of English. His first job was working as a labourer for a construction company owned by a family friend. Within three years he was made foreman and 10 years later he owned his own company, Accurate Point Construction which specializes in watermain and sewer installation.

While Diniz splits his time between his construction company and the restaurant, his passion lies in providing great food in an elegant setting.

He’s already received serveral compli-ments from people who have vacationed in Portugal and have told him that his food brings fond memories of their travels, which is probably the best complment you can give him.

“It’s very satisfying when you hear people talk so well about your food,” says Diniz. “This is why I opened the restaurant. To bring the people of Orléans a taste of where I am from. Portuguese food is delicious. It’s very healthy and it makes you smile.”

Restaurante Caravela is located at 3712 Innes Rd. next to Food Basics.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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Posted Jan. 12



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