Wild Orchid Restaurant and Cafe
286 James Street North
In her opinion:
I love Portuguese food. There are lot of different ethnic cuisines that I like and appreciate but Portuguese is still my favourite. What can I say...it's just returning to my roots. I can't believe that I hated this type of food as a kid, oh wait I hated all food. So as an adult and food lover, given an opportunity to have a late lunch, early dinner at Wild Orchid Restaurant and Cafe, I'm in!
We had the place to ourselves, which was fine with us. Our attentive waitress took our drink orders right away. I had my usual Portuguese standard, a Castello water. She then brought out a bread basket filled with the freshest papo secos I've had in a while...okay, at least a week and Becel margarine. Our son clearly appreciated the bread basket since he ate more than half of it himself.
We ordered the "Grilled Calamari" to share as a starter. It is described on the menu as "grilled calamari served with a lemon garlic marinade".
This calamari was super tender and delicious. So good! The lemon garlic marinade was outstanding. It added the perfect flavour punch to the tender calamari.
For my main course, I ordered the "Bacalhau a Bras". This is described on the menu as "shredded cod tossed together with shoe string fries and egg".
First, this portion was huge. It was enough to easily feed 2 or 3 people. The flavour was very familiar. It was very good. Not as refined as the bacalhau a bras that I had this past winter at Chiado but delicious in its own right. The egg was mixed perfectly into the dish. The cod was nicely flavoured and the onion, garlic and potatoes were cooked to perfection. They added the right amount of flavour and balance to this traditional Portuguese dish.
I absolutely love Wild Orchid Restaurant and Cafe. It's our go to Portuguese place in Hamilton. We will definitely be returning to this great Portuguese restaurant.
In his opinion:
Portuguese eateries are still at a premium in Ontario cities, even in the cities with large Portuguese populations like Toronto, Mississauga and Cambridge.
Portuguese cuisine does not have the same fame or appeal as Italian or French food and most people probably can't name two Portuguese dishes if they tried.
Oddly enough, most of the many travellers that have taken the time to visit Portugal will rave about Portuguese cuisine and it is always being named Western Europe hidden gem.
Why is it that is so hard to find good Portuguese restaurants around? Well, I don't have an answer for that but what I can say is that Wild Orchid fills the gap in this department. It's unassuming, traditional and with the expected European décor inside. Above it all, it lets the food speak for itself.
We have been to this establishment a few times and food is always consistent and very good. Actually, it seems that every time we are in Hamilton, we develop a craving for Portuguese food and Wild Orchid seems to be the chosen venue to kill the craving. This time we had the place to ourselves (cravings come at unsual dining times), and as we sat down and started to browse the Menu, I had an instant craving myself. Portuguese "Pork with Clams"..."Carne de porco a Alentejana"! I knew it even before I browsed the appetizers this would be my entrée (more to come about this lovely Portuguese traditional dish later).
For starters, we ordered the very famous and delicious grilled squid (calamari) with a lemon garlic marinade. It was served with some salad and was extremely tender and very flavourful. I myself am a big fan of calamari but prefer the "non-breaded kind", much like it is served traditionally in Portugal, on the grill with just a drizzle of olive oil. This calamari nevertheless was exquisite, with the lemon in the marinade complementing the grill taste to make it just right. It's the type of appetizer I could have everyday and all day!
Okay, now for the Pork with Clams. I know at first this may not seem like the perfect combination, and might even throw a few people off with this mixture of pork and seafood. Trust me, when I tell you that you would be making a huge mistake not venturing into this land and sea adventure. It is one of Portugal's most traditional dishes (and it's not even cod), and one of the dishes that is done consistently throughout the country, as well. The saltiness of the clams offset the "sweetness" and richness of the pork so well and the broth just ties it together perfectly. It is served with fried cubed potatoes and a squeeze of garlic for good measure. As I write this (and this happens often) I wish I was eating this dish right now and must plan my trip to Hamilton very soon.
We ended up not having any room for dessert. As you know, Portuguese restaurants are also know for their generous portions and I called it a day with a full belly and even some leftover cod to take home.
The Good: Great Portuguese restaurant serving flavourful food, in great portions and keeping it traditional. Also there is a small patio up front, great for drinks and they are showcasing Sangria right now.
The Bad: It is not around the corner from my house and that's definitely a drawback :( but in all seriousness, not much bad to mention except that the desert menu is almost non-existent.
The Verdict: Go and try it and you won't be disappointed. It's not Chiado or Adega so don't expect that and take it for what it really is, a great traditional Portuguese restaurant that serves great tasting food.