Don't judge a book by its cover at Portuguese gem
A slice of Portuguese flair in the heart of Shanghai, Tabu is a surprising discovery.
You could easily miss Tabu due to its understated facade, but first impressions are often deceptive – which is the case here because the somewhat unremarkable exterior becomes more memorable once inside.
The 20-seat restaurant is where Portuguese owner Paulo Luis shares his beloved homestyle food and Portuguese drinks with local diners.
Luis, who has called Shanghai home since 2005, has always worked in the food and beverage industry. He opened Casa Mart (an imported food grocery store) in the same location back in 2013, OLA right next door and a few years later Pinto's piri-piri chicken further down the street on Wuding Road.
Tabu, opened a year ago, is a tasca.
"Back home we have this little places called tascas, serving drinks and some home-cooked food normally prepared by mother or grandma. So when I've decided it was time to close Casa Mart, this location and space were perfect to open a tasca," Luis said.
Eating in a good tasca can feel a bit like eating in someone's home, and here the food tastes homemade, as if it were cooked by a grandmother. Luis uses local recipes from the Madeira region of Portugal where he grew up on the menu.
"I cook exactly what I used to eat back home and at some neighbors' homes who were always very kind to share some of their dinners. I don't adjust the taste to please different palates, but I have to adjust some ingredients based on what's available in the local market and prepare my own marinations, salad meat and even make my own lard," he said.
I tried the barley soup, which is rich and hearty, loaded with chunks of salty pork belly and ears, red beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, radish and chayote. Traditionally consumed by farmers, this soup takes up to three hours to cook and a couple of days to prepare. It was such a flavorful soup to enjoy on a cold day due to the hefty amount of vegetables.
Bacalhau (salted codfish) is Portugal's beloved national dish, and Tabu offers a variety of bacalhau dishes. One of the most famous recipes is Bacalhau a Braz, made with shredded cod, sautéed with onions and thinly chopped fried potatoes and bound with scrambled eggs.
The off menu is a crucial piece of the whole tasca experience. Luis prepares daily specials based on the availability of ingredients.
All the wine served in Tabu is Portuguese, including vino verde (green wine) and wines from Douro Valley. Classic cocktails on the menu include Portuguese favorites such as Licor Beirao and Amargjnda.
Opening hours: 5pm-2am (Monday closed)
Address: 1109 Wuding Rd
Average price: 160 yuan