Review date: July 2014. That banh mi in Hanoi or those gyoza in Osaka always taste just that little bit better. They may be pretty average examples in their own right, but the moped fumes or neon lights reflected in puddles somehow add to the overall experience. Likewise at DOC, a restaurant boasting a corker of a view down the wine country of Portugal’s Douro Valley.
Taking the food out of the context of time and place, it may not have been that truly memorable. But with the sun setting slowly over the water and the barges gliding past, it added up to a sublime experience.
The kitchen has serious props, too, along with a Michelin star for chef Rui Paula. The sister restaurant of DOC is called DOP, showing Paula’s obsession with using only the very finest local, certified produce. He does so in innovative and contemporary ways, taking Portuguese cuisine to new places.
As we settled in on the expansive deck, the bread was just as good bread should be, the amuses-bouches were fine little teases, the champagne was the right side of chilled and the views remained comically beautiful.
Deconstructing dishes doesn’t always necessarily deliver the best outcomes, but a chicken with risotto was outstanding, while my wife’s asparagus and carrot was beautifully plated and way better than it sounds.
The brilliant local wines kept flowing as swiftly as the Douro river we overlooked. Desserts and petits fours were excellent, but by then dining in candlelight, photos wouldn’t have done them justice.
For an ultimate sense of time and place, of eating produce yards from where it is cultivated, there can be few better, more beautiful options in Porto than DOC. Obrigado.
DOC Estrada National 222, Folgosa, 5110, Armamar, Portugal. T: 254 858 123 http://ruipaula.com/web/