Restaurante Bar LBV 79 (Pinhão, Portugal)

Compared to the rest of the Douro, which generally is quite calm and free of a lot of tourist traffic, Pinhão is the epicenter of activity in the Alto Douro; almost every day there’s at least one river cruise ship coming or going (day trips from Porto are popular, as are cruises headed further up the Douro to Spain), and it’s also the largest concentration of both hotels and restuarants (although the Douro valley still seems to be catching up with tourism; most Quintas having to implement reservations, and several places having recently added accommodations).

After completing a tour and a very enjoyable port tasting at Quinta do Bomfim, and eyeing the bountiful picnic baskets that some other guests had reserved there (we’d come back and do that later in our trip), we were actually getting a bit hungry, so as the sun started to set we were looking around Pinhão’s harbor for dinner. The first place we looked for, Bar Restaurante Veladouro, apparently was temporarily closed (they were open the next weekend when we returned to Pinhão), so we ended up at the place next door, Restaurant LBV 79 (run by the same people running the LBV Guesthouse that we were staying at up the hill… if you are wondering about the name, LBV is short for “Late Bottle Vintage”, a regular Port wine term).

Up on the 1st Floor (European numbering), there’s both a pleasant dining room and a large outdoor porch terrace, and we opted for a nice seat overlooking Pinhão’s harbor

To start our meal, we both opted for the caldo verde. Years ago, when the kale craze was starting to really pick up steam in the US, I learned about the traditional Portuguese Caldo Verde (“green soup”) when researching new ways to use up the kale and collards we were getting in our CSA box. It’s a relatively simple soup, basically potatoes and onions cooked and pureed to make a soup base, into which a chiffonade of kale (lending the soup its color) and chourico is added. It’s simple and satisfying, and an online recipe I found for it has been in regular rotation in my cooking ever since. This being my first good opportunity to try an “authentic” caldo verde in Portugal itself, I couldn’t resist. And had the very pleasant affirmation when finding that the caldo verde at LBV 79 was both a pleasant rendition of the classic soup, but also quite similar to the version I’ve been making at home.

Next up was our main course. I opted for the veal with mustard sauce, which was two tender and juicy filets of veal in a mustard sauce primarily made with whole mustard seeds, giving a slightly tangy but still smooth sauce. Served up with a salad and a small mountain of potatoes(as we discovered several times, the Portuguese seem to love potatoes as much as Americans), this was a very pleasant selection.

After finding a few other menu items were sold out for the evening, Carol opted for pork with pineapple sauce, partly through curiosity, since during our short two days in Portugal to this point, we’d already seen pineapple on a few menus. We later realized that the major reason for this is that pineapples are one of the major exports of the Azores, and the Portuguese tend to use more pineapples than some of the surrounding countries as a result. While the natural American mental picture of pork with pineapple sauce is a sweet dish like you’d find in a stereotypical “Polynesian” restaurant, this was actual a softer, unsweetened, and almost savory sauce, and combined with the tender pork, it actually worked quite well.

There were definitely a few hiccups at LBV 79; as both we and other various online reviews observed as well, they frequently seem to run out of dishes, especially on busy nights, and the service was definitely on the more casual and slow end of the spectrum. But the location is nice, the patio particularly pleasing, and the food quite tasty.

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