Luxury in Porto – dining at Raiva Restaurant

If you’re looking to elevate your dining experience while visiting Porto and its surrounding landscape, then you can do no better than the sensational Raiva Restaurant at the Octant Douro hotel in Portugal. We review a Tasting Menu that promises as many twists and turns as the Douro River itself.

The ‘garden to table’ concept has taken the restaurant world by storm in the last decade. In today’s climate of awareness when it comes to sustainability, food miles and support of local industry, then being able to identify and share where each part of the produce of your menu is from has become highly aspirational. This is why you might see meat described by the regional farm it’s been sourced from, or cheeses differentiated from the actual cattle used to produce the milk.

But having a menu that literally tells you how many kilometres the produce has come from? That’s taking a love of locality to a new level.

Not only that, but while you are eating you can literally gaze across the gorgeous land that has provided you meal. A meal at Raiva also offers a show-stopping panoramic view of the Douro Valley. Arrive at sunset and watch as the day gently shifts into twilight and the sky glows a burnt orange and shimmering gold before easing into lavender, dark purple and finally star-studded navy. Below you can see the river Douro winding through the steep hills of the valley, and the twinkling lights of Porto in the distance.

Raiva is part of the luxury Octant Douro hotel, and is a celebration of Portuguese cuisine and the incredible produce that can be found in the area. The Douro River itself is hugely important to this gastronomic journey. Rising to an altitude of 2000 metres in the peaks of Urbión in the interior of Spain, this 897 km long-river is blessed with a rich diversity of climates on its winding route, which creates unique opportunities for incredible wines (such as the variety of Vinho Verde ‘green wines’ famous in the area), as well as one of Spanish cuisine’s most interesting flavour-dry-cured Iberian hams, and other delicacies such as cheese, olive oils and bread. The tasting menu at Raiva pays homage to the specialities that can be harvested and procured from the landscape through which this life-giving river cuts its course.

In his 7-course tasting menu, Chef Dárcio Henriques has initiated a similar journey. Guests are taken on a voyage of the senses – not simply the taste buds, but also a feast for the eyes, and a chance to appreciate the scents, textures and intricate complexities of the combinations he’s created.

A vibrant green asparagus soup uses vegetables harvested from less than half an hour down the road at Quinta Verde Água, with a thin wafer of buckwheat, cured ham and the heads of asparagus spears appearing in the bowl like a work of modern art before the frothy, foaming liquid is poured on top. The combination of outrageously fresh soup and salty, textured additions starts the meal off perfectly and is balanced with an extra dry Vinho Verde intended to clear the palate with its slightly fruity mineralogy while also balancing the acidity of the asparagus.

A course of peas and egg offers a garden-brightness that’s intensified with oozing, savoury, silky yolk, and is paired with a flighty sparkling wine that brings just the right amount of effervescence to the palate, cleaning the mouth after that sticky, indulgent egg yolk.

One of the most impressive courses is the Arouquesa rump steak – a speciality bread from Portugal, which is characterised by its tender juiciness and delectably marbled appearance. It’s served with rich oxtail rice and a meat sauce made from animal bones, reduced to an almost treacle-like glistening brown liquid that smacks of umami flavour.

And of course, if couldn’t be a Pairing Menu in Portugal without including some Port – at Raiva, they have huge bottles they fill themselves and keep in the cellar, containing 20-year-old fortified wine that smacks of dried fruits, honey, apricots and the spices of Christmas time.

An evening spent at Raiva is less a meal and more of an experience. Prepare yourself for a journey that’s been curated with evident passion, enthusiasm and keen knowledge about the ingredients on display. While there is obvious flair and technical skill employed in every course on the menu, at the heart of the matter is a celebration – of the life-giving Douro River, of the people who live along its banks and cultivate its crops, and of the guests that travel to enjoy the delicacies it offers.

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Source: BOE