A Lisbon Culinary Detour

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Portuga's capital city, Lisbon, does not appear to have its own cuisine per se, distinct from Portuguese cuisine as a whole. What it does have is a vibrant culinary scene and a reputation as a city for foodies. A plethora of restaurants serve traditional Portuguese dishes, modern and/or international cuisine.

It was this scene which I touched in my brief sojourn into Lisbon's cuisine, going for a very simple yet delicious dish:

Bife À Café de São Bento

Café de São Bento Style Steak

Cafe São Bento Style Steak

The famed Café de São Bento steakhouse opened in Lisbon in the 1980’s, as an ode to the cafes of 19th century Lisbon which functioned as the cultural and intellectual centers of the city. While some of these cafes were still around, they had evolved with the times, and the founders of Café de São Bento wanted a trip back in time. To accomplish that, they reinvented the Bife á Marrare, a steak dish created and popularized by Neapolitan chef António Marrare through the plethora of taverns and cafes he owned in Lisbon in the 19th century.

At Café de São Bento, Bife á Marrare was updated and upgraded by using tenderloin or top sirloin instead of the original round and refining the sauce. I ended up using New York strip steak because that’s what was on sale - it’s a tougher cut than either tenderloin or top sirloin and a more flavorful one, but it worked well enough. Indeed, despite its simplicity, this dish was absolutely delicious.

Below is the recipe as made at Café de São Bento. When made following these instructions, you end up with a steak in a white sauce. Mine was brown because I decided I would be lazy and reuse the pan I used to make the steak for my sauce. If having a brownish sauce doesn’t bother you, feel free to do the same.


Café de São Bento Style Steak


  • 2 Tbsp salted butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tenderloin or top sirloin steaks
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste


Melt 1 Tbsp each of salted and unsalted butter over medium-high heat in sauté or cast iron pan. Add the steaks and cook until your desire doneness, turning half way. Transfer to a plate.

Heat a clean sauté pan over medium heat. Add the remaining butters and whipping cream, melt, and shake the pan to combine. Add the kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Place the steaks in the cream mixture and press down with a fork. Turn and repeat. Add the accumulated juices from the plate where the steaks were to the sauce. Remove the steaks. Mix the sauce and then return the steaks to the sauce again. Season with more pepper and serve.

Adapted from a recipe at Iberismos

Iberian cuisines I've explored so far: Alavesan, Andalusian, Andorran, Aragonese, Asturian, Azorean, Balearic, Basque, Canarian, Cantabrian, Castilian, Catalan, Galician, Gibraltarian, Jerezano

Luso-influenced cuisines I've explored so far: Angolan, Azorean, Bahian, Bissau Guinean, Brazilian, Cape Verde, Goan

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