Review: Super Mario, Lisboa Portugal

Rafa, our guide on our free walking tour of Lisboa stopped the tour at one point in the morning and said to us, “If you want a good local restaurant, just go down that street and turn left at the pink building. It’s called Super Mario, and I go there with my friends all the time. Sometimes we’ll go for lunch and stay for beers, and before long, it’s dinner time so we stay for dinner too!”

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If there’s one thing I know, it’s that you can’t beat restaurant recommendations from a true local. So, K and I retraced the route of the tour the following day in order to find Super Mario for lunch. When we get there, the restaurant is absolutely chock-full with local construction workers. There’s no table reservation etiquette here – rather than waiting for a private table for your party, you just have to hope that two people sitting next to each other will leave at the same time and you can go in and grab their seats at the long communal dining tables.

We ended up waiting for around ten minutes and when we managed to get in and get a seat, I looked around the room and realised that 1) I was the only female in the whole room of male construction workers; 2) We were the only non-locals. The one waiter didn’t speak any English, but did give us a single page menu with photos of their most popular dishes so that we could order from photos if not an actual menu.

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I started with the house-made Soup of the Day, a very simple carrot, kale and potato soup not unlike the one we had a day earlier at Churrasqueiria Santo Antonio. It makes me wonder if this is a regular Portuguese dish – anyone able to shed some light on this?

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I ordered the Grilled Swordfish, which comes with some parboiled buttered and salted broccoli and potatoes on the side. This was truly rustic food, with a really magnificent piece of swordfish. No attempt had been made towards de-boning the fish and the whole piece of fish, skin and all, had been thrown onto the grill. The result was a beautifully tender piece of fish with a creamy texture, but a perfect charcoal crust.

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K’s Mixed Grill was made up of various cuts of pork arranged on top of a bed of rice and beans. I thought the rice and bean mix was a bit too watery, and some of the cuts of pork were a little bit too tough, but the pork ribs were particularly nice.

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Though I was stuffed full with my swordfish, I was determined to prolong our genuine local dining experience, and eyed off some of the home-made desserts in the case. K opted for a slice of the large wobbly Flan – extremely eggy and creamy with a sweet caramel sauce that wasn’t too dark.

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I pointed at another of the desserts – I didn’t know what it was, but was willing to give it a try! It turned out to be an Arroz con Leche – a rice pudding with a cinnamon topping. Very simple, but very more-ish – it was like eating a creamy version of a cinnamon doughnut!

When it came time to pay, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. When we were ordering, we didn’t know how much everything would cost – a drink, main and dessert each should all add up right? I hesitantly put two $20 Euro notes on the counter hoping that it would be enough to cover the costs, and the owner frowned at me and then just took a single note and gave me $4 Euro back. This whole meal only cost us $16 Euro! A complete bargain for the amazing feast we had.

Super Mario dishes up great authentic simple food to a crowd of locals. Their fast turnover is made all the more impressive by the fact that there’s just the one waiter, his wife behind the bar, and two women staffing the kitchen, turning out all these meals by themselves. Be prepared to join a group of locals on a communal table in order to have one of the cheapest and most authentic meals you’ll find in Lisboa.

Super Mario is located at 9 Rua do Duque, Lisboa.

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