Regular visitors of Wonderful Wanderings will already know I'm a huge food fan. I just love to eat (cooking, that's something else…) and I'm always open to new food experiences. You can only imagine my excitement when the tourism board for Porto and the north of Portugal invited me to dinner at Rui Paula's DOP Restaurant in Porto, Portugal.
- Free admission to more than 6 museums and attractions.
- 50% discounts at other museums and sights.
- Free and unlimited access to the Porto metro, city buses, and suburban trains.
- Special deals at restaurants, shops, and other venues.
Get your Porto Card from GetYourGuide. They allow you to cancel up to 24 hours beforehand in case you change your mind.
DOP – chef Rui Paula
- Rui Paula opened his first restaurant, the Cêpa Torta, in Alijó in 1994. It was open for 16 years.
- DOC Restaurant followed in 2007, at the Folgosa pier between Régua and Pinhão.
- Three years later Paula opened the restaurant DOP in the Palace of Arts in Porto.
- In 2011 Paula became the Consultant Chief of the Vidago Palace Hotel.
- Planned for April 2014 is the opening of a new restaurant in Recife (Brasil).
DOP Restaurant Porto: getting there
We had a dinner reservation at 8 pm on our first night in Porto. As we didn't want to be late and still had to discover the area, we left our apartment on the Rua Campo Lindo half an hour beforehand, leaving us with enough time to find a parking spot and the restaurant.
Our GPS quickly directed us to the Largo S. Domingos, where DOP Restaurant Porto is located. We were a bit worried about finding parking space, but quickly found a spot across the street from the Palácio das Artes, the 14th-century building that houses Rui Paula's restaurant and that is classified as World Heritage. Turned out you only had to pay for parking until 8 pm. Lucky us!
Although we had parked right across the street from where we had to be, it still took us some time to find the entrance. We first walked all the way around the Palácio das Artes but started in the wrong direction. We left our car in the Rua Dr. Sousa Viterbo and walked downhill (of course we walked downhill…) to the Jardim do Infante Don Henrique. We turned right there and saw the Palácio da Bolsa in front of us, mistakenly thinking it was the Palácio das Artes.
We should've known we were wrong, though, as there were journalists standing outside and official-looking people coming out. We went in anyway, found the wrong restaurant (the Restaurant O Comercial) and quickly left again. We later learned that the event that had been going on inside was the goodbye of bishop Don Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente of Porto, who would go on to become the Patriarch of Lisbon.
After asking for directions, we finally made it to the entrance of Rui Paula's DOP Restaurant… just a couple of meters away from where we had parked our car.
The Rui Paula Dop Restaurant: our experience
I have to admit we felt a bit uneasy when we arrived at DOP. You see, Boyfriend and I aren't really frequent restaurant visitors. We love good food, but our budget doesn't allow us to eat out all the time and definitely not at the “nicer places”.
I don't know exactly what we had expected, but whatever those expectations were, they were surely exceeded. The food, the service, the ambiance… everything was exactly as it should have been.
DOP Restaurant: the decor
Don't expect anything artsy fartsy or super-modern when going to DOP Porto. The restaurant consists of a rectangular room on the ground floor with another room on the first floor. Space is efficiently used, but you never get the feeling that you're too close to your neighbor.
Now I must say that when we were there the restaurant wasn't full. Funny enough, though, one couple sitting close to us was also from Belgium. We sure know how to find great food!
I really appreciated the service at DOP Restaurant. Personnel were friendly, but never too present (you know what I mean). Our glasses never went dry (nor my glass of water – which came from the Vidago spring in the north of Portugal – nor Boyfriend's glass of wine) and we got a rundown of what was on our plate with every new course.
This was pretty useful as we'd been offered the menu of the chef and didn't know beforehand what we would get. Exciting!
Rui Paula couldn't have chosen his dishes better, I must say. But before I get into the food I just want to say one last thing about the chef: at one point in the evening, he left his kitchen to personally ask each of his guests if everything was okay and if the service was good. In English, I must add (by the way, all personnel spoke English as well).
And when we left the restaurant that night we saw him outside with his personnel, chatting and having a smoke. Of course, those two small things might not say a lot about the chef as a person, but they did leave a positive impression on us.
The food… oh gosh, the food
I'm just going to say it like it is: I've never had a better dinner than at Rui Paula's DOP Restaurant. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever eaten anything that tasted more refined, more balanced, more exactly as it was supposed to taste, than at DOP Restaurant.
My apologies to all the great places I've eaten at so far, especially in Portugal, but this food was just amazing.
We started with a welcome from the chef: a crispy potato with salmon and lemon, something piggy and a ‘fake truffle’ (if I understood it correctly).
After that came the starter: veal carpaccio with chili ice cream.
It looked like such a weird combination but this ended up being my favorite dish of the evening. The veal was so fine, yet had such profound taste and the chili ice cream was a perfect match for it. As you can see on the picture I couldn't contain myself and already had a bite before taking a picture.
I'm actually thinking of making this my signature, as I always seem to start eating before taking a picture. I just can't help myself.
But back to the food. Our starter was accompanied by three different kinds of bread: chili, focaccia and truffle.
Then came the fish… or fishes, as we were served the typically Portuguese dish ‘caldeirada': three different kinds of fish (in this case turbot, sea bass and red fish) in a bouillabaisse with pepper and Italian potatoes.
Looks delicious, doesn't it? Well, it was.
After the fish came the meat (no photo because I couldn't help myself and ate it all straight away) – duck leg with truffle puree and asparagus – and then came the surprise of the evening…
Suddenly a waitress stood next to me, holding a spoon with a little red ball on it. She told me to put the ball in my mouth in one piece, which I did, and then it happened…
Sparkles! An explosion of red fruits (I know because that's what the little ball was called) and even tinier ball that kept sparkling in my mouth minutes after I'd eaten this pre-dessert. I felt like a child again. I was so excited.
Boyfriend and I knew we recognized the sparkling balls, but we didn't know from where. When we told a friend about this, she thought it could have been ‘knettersuiker' (sparkling sugar). I guess we'll never now…
I just want to emphasize one more time that that little ball was a thing of genius.
And then came dessert. Dessert usually is my favorite course and basically when there's chocolate involved, I'm happy.
There was chocolate involved.
Dessert consisted of a chocolate and coffee cake, ice cream of milk from almonds and a mousse made of coffee. Cake seems to be the most common dessert in Portugal. We saw it everywhere we went.
After dessert we were offered coffee or tea. I had some white tea and what I like about Portugal as well, is that you always seem to get a small tea pot when you order tea. In Belgium you usually only get one cup.
Just when we thought DOP had run out of surprise, there was another one. We got to choose something out of a box filled with deliciously looking candy.
Wait, just one thing??? How could I choose between all of those goodies? I ended up choosing a chocolate and passion fruit cake Popsicle and I must admit I don't remember what Boyfriend had. Guess I was enjoying my after-dessert too much.
Needless to say we had a wonderful evening. We chatted all the way through dinner and just felt delighted all night through. The things food can do…
Address: Largo de S. Domingos 18, in Palácia das Artes
Tel.: +351 22 201 4313
Where to stay in Porto
For a refreshing dip after a day of exploring, check this list of hotels with pools in Porto.
For other types of hotels, I recommend Booking.com for its wide range of options and flexible booking conditions.
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We were offered a complimentary meal at Rui Paula's DOP Restaurant in Porto by the tourism board for Porto and the north of Portugal, but there's no way this could affect my opinion.
Laura @Travelocafe says
So cool to see you had dinner at DOP as well. We were in Porto last spring and Rui Paula’s restaurant was simply one of the best experiences we had in town. He also chose the menu for us, but except for the explosion, he had an entirely different menu. Plus, one year and a half later and it’s still one of the best services we’ve ever had in a restaurant!
Sofie Couwenbergh says
DOP was our favorite experience in Porto as well. We still talk about it and I’m sure we will for a long time to come!
I’d love to taste that explosion over and over again. I was like a child discovering candy!
So excited to read your post. I will be dining at DOP on Sunday with a “fam” trip. Can’t wait.
Sofie Couwenbergh says
Oooooh, you’ll love it!
A couple of months later now and it’s still the best dinner – no – the best food I ever had.
Enjoy and be sure to come back and tell me what you had!
It was wonderful! Our menu was
Samosa of “Alheira” a typical Portuguese sausage
Sea Bass in it’s habitat
Truffle puree with preserved leg of Duck
Goat cheese samosa, kufi ice cream and cottage cheese, pumpkin jam and almond.
My least favorite was the fish dish; not because it wasn’t good, but because fish is not a favorite food of mine. The duck was the most delicious duck ever! They paired wines with each course, and they were very good. After savoring every bite of the meal, I did something very rare. I had the coffee. It was the smoothest most delicious coffee I’ve ever had in my life!
So glad you came back to let us know what you had!
Sounds so delicious.
I think I would prefer the fish over the sausage. I’m not a big sausage fan, but I’m guessing that, at DOP, it was great anyway:-)
Happy you enjoyed your dinner!
Hello…we went to DOP. Based on reviews from other websites, it was rated the most expensive restaurant in Porto. The restaurant was half full (we couldn’t go to other restaurants in the area as they were booked a week in advance). We know in Portugal they charge for bread and that’s fine. I was with my wife and 5 years old daughter…they charged 10.50 Euro (3 × 3.50) for 5 pieces of bread!!! Food was good but service was incredibly slow. I had to chase the wine menu and get water on a counter myself (they charged 7 Euro for Stillwater or maybe tapwater as they were not from a bottle). Understand now why this restaurant was not booked at high season. Over rated and dont bother spending 160 euro there.
I’m sorry you had a bad experience at DOP. There weren’t that many people when we were there either, but both the food and the service were exquisite. Mind you, that was three years ago so I imagine some things might have changed since we’ve been there.