Lobster bisque does not get any better than this.jpg

Lobster bisque does not get any better than this

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]

The lobster, the whole lobster and nothing but the lobster – well not strictly speaking as a lobster bisque also contains some other ingredients like onions, garlic, fennel perhaps, tomato and the chef’s choice of spices.

For me, a good lobster bisque is up there with my very favourite soups such as a proper bouillabaisse. There are a few restaurants around the world that I associate with particular dishes; bouillabaisse at Chez Michel on the seafront in Marseille, seafood rice at Marisqueira Rui in Silves, and fish head curry at a little known place in Kuala Lumpur are just a few of them. This is not about innovative or creative cooking but about the perfect execution, time after time, year after year, of the same dish.

One such place is the Aladdin Grill at Vila Vita Parc. Long ago, before the opening of what is now their two-star Michelin Ocean Restaurant, the Aladdin Grill was the hotel’s top dining outlet and it was some time in the late 90s that I first tried their lobster bisque. It has since become my benchmark for how a lobster bisque really should taste.

This is a restaurant for special occasions, most main courses cost around €40 but the lobster bisque is a very reasonable €16.

I tend to dine here once or twice a year and for over 15 years I have always eaten exactly the same meal: a few fresh oysters au naturel, the heavenly bisque and a rack of lamb. With its open-plan kitchen at centre stage in the restaurant, the chefs can be seen at work, grilling to perfection fresh fish and seafood.

It struck me on my last visit just how good the bisque really is; the depth of flavour and consistency of the broth and the just-cooked morsels of fresh lobster floating in it are sheer perfection.

Funnily, loving this dish as much as I do, I am not actually a lobster fan. When it comes to simply boiled crustaceans I would choose crab any day over lobster, the main reason being that the most flavoursome part of the lobster is the head and the shell.

A real bisque extracts all of the flavour from the whole of the crustacean by pan or oven roasting before gentle-simmering to make the stock.

The Aladdin’s head chef António Cláudio (pictured) has been working at Vila Vita for over 20 years and has his own special recipe for lobster bisque, adding raw bones from premium fish like sole and John Dory to the stock, along with heads from that most tasty of all crustaceans, the carabineiro (scarlet prawn).

But the predominant flavour is, of course, lobster. He uses both spiny and common lobster and flavours the broth with a tiny hint of curry powder, Pernod and coriander.

I will sign off here by asking Vila Vita management that whatever changes may be made to the hotel’s dining options in the future, please do not take this dish off of the menu!

Aladdin Grill follows a seasonal opening schedule and may be closed during the quieter months. Until the end of October it is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday.

Reservations: 282 310 100