Lisbon’s “Can the Can” Restaurant Review – Trendy Canned Food Fare

Typical Americans don’t think of canned food as having cachet.  Not so in Portugal, and perhaps other parts of Europe.  

 

This can store display on the second floor of "Can the Can" is similar to some we saw in tourist spots in other parts of the country

 

Go to many Portuguese travel sites and you’ll find canned sardines and other typical Portuguese canned food fare on display.

 

"Can the Can" is located on the historic and central Praça do Comércio in Lisbon

 

Photographer Peter Kachergis nicknames this "the candelier"

 

Take it up a notch and you get “Can the Can”, a four year-old Lisbon restaurant that builds its gourmet menu –and very fun décor—around canned food. 

 

Those are stacked cans on the shelves surrounding the upstairs dining room

 

It became a standing-room-only crowd outdoors during the very popular happy hour

 

When we visited we had a chance to chat with two of the five co-owners--- Akis Konstontinidis, the Greek-born architect turned chef, and Rui Pregal da Cunha, rock musician turned Manager. 

 

Rui (left) and Akis (right)

 

Rui started the conversation, saying, “…in Portugal we begin with very fresh fish that we put in a can with warm olive oil, and then sterilize in water.  This preserves the fish’ freshness.  

 

“In France they are crazy about the idea of opening a can that is 50 years old…”

 

Most of the patrons seemed to be Portuguese regulars when we visited but Rui explains that more customers actually come from abroad

 

Akis continues, “In other places where I’ve lived canned food is very typical as well.  In Greece we ate Portuguese sardines in cans.  I also saw this when I traveled to Sicily

 

Can chandeliers, of course!

 

“Canned food in Portugal is gourmet and we decided to create the whole story of canned food.  We just finished a book and Rui will be directing an 8-part TV mini-series covering the last 150 years of canning fish and how it intertwines with history  --- such as feeding armies in two world wars.”

 

Toutiços de sardinha Avocado, sardine “necks”, quinoa tabulleh (lime juice, olive oil, cucumber, pepper, red onion, dill and coriander)

 

Rui continues, “It’s not only sardines.  Now we have canned sea bass, salmon, codfish, sea urchins and more – all canned.  We strongly believe that density in the sea is needed and there needs to be education.  For example, mackerel is very good.  People need to think of seaweeds too.”

 

Placemat

 

Actually, not everything on the menu is canned per se, but most is what Rui calls “conserved” foods, or what might be “preserved” in American parlance.  Salt, for example, is one of the oldest preservation techniques and it is very common in Portugal as a preservative for the beloved codfish menu staple.  (Note: this is the traditional dish of Portuguese Christmas, and most good Portuguese cooks are said to have hundreds of codfish recipes.)

 

Cavala alimada e puré de batata-doce / Lemon-marinated Mackerel batata-doce, marmelo, endro, tomate confitado / sweet potato, toasted almonds, dill and a tomato

 

Rui explains, “Besides canned fish and salted foods, we also use conserved foods like dried fruits, or vinegar preserved foods and many other techniques to preserve things…The underlying principle is that we pay attention to diversity and when we eat fish we think of how what we eat must be sustainable.”

 

Our favorite dish-- Muxama de Atum / Dried tuna fillets laranja, redução de citrinos, amêndoa torrada, brotos / orange, citrus reduction, toasted almond and sprouts

 

Much of the menu at “Can the Can” is in fact seafood, which, Rui explains, reflects the Portuguese connection to the sea. 

 

Sangacho (dark tuna) salad diced beetroot, orange segments, mustard and honey dressing

 

“Can the Can” is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – located on the historic and central Praça do Comércio in Lisbon.

 

Oven roasted eggplant with salted Icelandic cod, home made tomato sauce, azorean cheese, cornbread crumbs and sweet potato chips

 

For more information and advanced bookings visit the “Can the Can” website.

 

 

  

 

 

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