Restaurants in the Netherlands have been closed since October – yes, you read it right. I still remember the last day I was able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant with some friends in Amsterdam, and it was on October 7th.
It is no surprise that, when we traveled to Portugal for Christmas, we were eager to dine out. We were tired of eating my oh-so-healthy home cooked recipes and often disappointing take-away meals. We were hungry for a fine dinner, at a place with a cool ambience, where we could happily talk over a few glasses of wine and share a dessert, even tough we were full.
I had heard good and bad things about JNcQUOI. Most people liked it, but the cuisine savvy ones (a.k.a. one of my friend’s boyfriend who is a chef) said it was overpriced. Well, I wanted to try at least one of their restaurants anyways. Even if it was overpriced, we hadn’t been to a restaurant in two months, so we didn’t mind spending a bit more on high-expectation meals.
JNcQUOI has two different restaurants – the regular one, called JNcQUOI Avenida, that serves Portuguese food, and JNcQUOI Asia, whose cuisine is inspired in Asian food (you might have guessed it by the name). They also have a very fancy café/tea room, Ladurée. I didn’t go there, though, as I didn’t really want to pay 5€ for a macaron.
All three places are in – surprise, surprise – Avenida da Liberdade, the fanciest avenue in Lisbon. I’m talking about the Portuguese Champs-Elysées, where you can find all the designer brands and do some luxury shopping, if you’re into that. It’s also beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, with the traditional Lisbon facade buildings, the Portuguese pavement and huge trees to save you from ruining your makeup with sweat on a warm day.
So, let me share my experience at both restaurants with you!
Me and André went to JNcQUOI Avenida for lunch on Christmas Eve. It was our own Christmas celebration, since we were not going to spend Christmas Eve dinner together. Oh, and what a celebration it was.
We had booked a table on the previous day and they only had a table left for noon. Because of health & safety measures, it can be a bit more difficult to book a table, so I’d advise you to call and book a few days in advance.
We got there a bit late. The day was beautiful, cold but sunny, and we had been doing some last minute Christmas gift shopping at Rua Augusta, and got carried by the pleasure of wandering around our home-city. Thankfully, there were no issues – we felt very welcome there.
The restaurant itself is beautiful. With golden, pink, sage green and wooden tones, the ambience is great and I guarantee you’ll want to take a few photos (like I did). They also have a very interesting dinosaur skeleton in the middle of the restaurant.
Food wise, honestly, I have nothing to complain about. My mouth watered as soon as I saw our meals coming to the table, and the taste was just… incredible. If this was overpriced, I have to ask my friend’s boyfriend where he goes out to eat, because this was one of the best dining experiences I had in my life!
I had the veal cutlet and André had the Iberian pork loin “plumas”. I tried both and if I had to choose one, honestly, I couldn’t. The meat was really tender and tasty and the sides were also spot-on.
We were lucky enough that a colleague from my university was working there as the wine advisor. He advised the best wines to go with our meals, which made them taste even better.
Of course we had to share a dessert, even though we were full. The hardest part was choosing, though – they came to our table with a golden tray full of the sweet desserts they serve there. We went for a raspberry cheesecake with a twist; it had caramel and vanilla too, and was incredibly good.
If I could rate JNcQUOI Avenida, it would be 5/5. If you’re visiting Lisbon (or already live there), make sure you pay a visit to this unforgettable restaurant!
Our visit to JNcQUOI Asia wasn’t planned at all. It was our last night in Lisbon, we were staying at PortoBay Avenida hotel before catching our flight on the next morning, and we felt like having some Asian food. To be fair, after twenty days in Portugal, I was craving some international food and didn’t feel like eating another traditional Portuguese meal.
Actually, we wanted to go and have dinner at Boa-Bao, my favorite Asian restaurant in Lisbon. However, when we got there, the waiter said the restaurant was full and they already had a huge waiting list, despite being a random Tuesday night in January – classic Boa-Bao. We should have known that we should’ve arrived earlier, but we got too distracted swimming in the warm-water pool at the hotel. Don’t make the same mistake as us if you’re going to Boa-Bao, and arrive there early, like, at 19h.
We then decided to go all the way back to Liberdade and have dinner at JNcQUOI Asia. The ratings were not as good as JNcQUOI Avenida, but we were willing to give it a try!
The restaurant was also full and we had to wait for a table. Honestly, I don’t know what was going on with Lisbon on that random Tuesday night. Every restaurant we passed through was packed, despite of the really low tourism numbers. Good for business owners!
If I was positively impressed with the ambience at JNcQUOI Avenida, I was mesmerized with the decor at JNcQUOI Asia. The restaurant itself is huge, with three different rooms and an outside area. There’s a bar with a DJ, a huge dining room with modern Asian decor, a sushi room and the outside space, with neon lights and cute Asian-inspired sun-umbrellas.
We were sat in the sushi room, which was a bit disappointing, but fair, since we didn’t make a reservation. I wanted to be sitting in the main dining room, with the beautiful and colorful decor – but maybe next time!
We had the chicken satay as a starter. It was very good, but we already had a very similar one in Amsterdam for half the price (at Bar Mash), so this time I really felt this was overpriced.
For dinner, André had the Pad Thai and I had the Vegetable Chow Mein. Both were really tasty, but they couldn’t beat Boa-Bao. I’m sorry, JNcQUOI Asia…
For dessert, we chose the Dinosaur’s Drool – a decadent mousse with chocolate, egg custard, caramel, biscuit and cream. Yes, it’s diabetes in a bowl, but it’s really worth it, so make sure you try it! We shared one and weren’t able to finish it, so I’d advise you to share it with three or 4 people even – unless you have a really sweet tooth, in that case I support you on your mission to eat the whole thing.
The food at JNcQUOI Asia didn’t impress me that much, but the ambience and the restaurant did. I can imagine myself having dinner there with a bunch of friends and talking the whole night out over fizzy drinks and cocktails, and then going for a cigarette in that awesome outside space with the neon lights. Hopefully the drinks would make us forget the inevitability of the bill coming.
And this is it – these are my thoughts about the popular JNcQUOI restaurants! I definitely think they’re worth a visit, especially if you’re willing to splurge a bit on a meal or night out. Let me know your thoughts if you end up going!