2014-04-30 / Restaurant of the Week

O LAVRADOR

Cheerful spring pansies greeted us as we approached the tile and stone façade of O Lavrador restaurant in Jamaica. In Portuguese, O Lavrador means, “the farmer”, and walking into the beautiful and historic space certainly made us feel like we were entering a charming farmhouse in Portugal. The terra cotta-colored walls, the rustic wooden floors, the pewter chandeliers, the leather chairs, the white linen tablecloths and the bright red napkins all contributed to the expectation of an elegant and authentic meal.

In business since 1981, O Lavrador was originally run by Joao and Almerinda Ferreira who hail from Portugal. In 2009, their son, Edgar Ferreira, and his sister and her husband, Manuela and Mario Henriques, took over running the restaurant. The evening we went for dinner we met Edgar who immediately made us feel like family, as did each member of the attentive wait staff. We sipped on excellent red Portuguese table wine and bottled water from the region, while awaiting our appetizers: Pulpo a Feira, and Choriço Caseiro. The choriço, a homemade pork sausage flambéed at tableside, was delicious, smoky and rich. The pulpo, or octopus, was buttery tender, topped off with olive oil and smoked paprika, the best I’ve ever had. My dining companion and I could have happily finished off the starters, but we were determined to save room for the entrees, and were glad we did. We took Edgar’s recommendation and ordered grilled Bacalhau, a dried, salted, codfish, topped with toasted garlic and sweet peppers, with potatoes, sliced tomato and onion.

Though I’d never had Bacalhau before (or Bacalao as it’s sometimes spelled), Edgar assured me I was getting the best, as it comes directly from his parents’ region of Portugal no substitutes at O Lavrador. The fish was simultaneously crisp on top and moist in the middle, a mild flavor made even more delectable by the zesty garlic. We also had a bowl of Mariscada Salsa Verde: Lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari and scallops, bathed in a fantastically savory garlic/parsley sauce. The seafood was cooked to perfection and fresh as could be, served with rice on the side. The portions were so large we could see there would be plenty to take home. As Edgar said, “At my grandma’s house, there’s no such thing as small portions.”

The menu features delicacies that are both Portuguese and Spanish, including flame broiled lobster, paella, Fejoada de Mariscos, which is seafood with white beans and rice, shrimp dishes, grilled filet mignon and sirloin steak, grilled lamb chops, chicken, and much more. I asked Edgar about the Caldo Verde, a collard green soup in a stock with pureed potatoes. He recommended it highly, adding that he tests it every day to make sure the consistency is just right. Prices are extremely reasonable: entrees start at about $14 for vegetarian dishes and go to $35 for lobster tail and sirloin. The sangria is very popular, we were told, as well as the Caipirinhas, but we tried a refreshing cold port after dinner Portuguese of course. And don’t forget dessert! We enjoyed Pera Bebada, pears poached in port wine with cinnamon and vanilla ice cream that tasted just like Christmas, and a scrumptious dish of Serradura, layers of sweet cream mousse and crushed cookies, a dish of heaven if there ever was one. The menu also features flan, chocolate mousse cake, cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake, and tiramisu, to be had with a cappuccino, espresso, or café au lait.

O’Lavrador offers a terrific $12 lunch special, as well as panini for just $6, and a variety of other hot sandwiches, encouraging lots of regular customers to drop by every day to enjoy the flavors and the atmosphere. There’s a separate bar that stays open, Edgar says, “Until the last customer leaves,” and spacious rooms for parties, because, of course, O Lavrador caters all kinds of occasions, for events on premises or as take out. “We’ve had generations of families come to us,” Edgar remarked. “We like to please people, give them a reason to come back. We like to give them the full experience.”

There are Portuguese specials every weekend, “Wine Down Wednesdays,” which offers 25 percent off on bottles of wine in the dining room, and an upcoming Mothers Day Buffet on May 11 for $30 per person and $16 for children. Visit their Web site for more information: OLavradorRestaurant.com

At 138-40 101st Avenue the restaurant is easy to get to from Western Queens by taking the Grand Central Parkway, then the Van Wyck West to 101st Avenue, only 20 minutes from Astoria, with lots of free parking. We pledged to go again, and again, and again. Whether it’s a romantic date for two, or dinner with family, O Lavrador is indeed, the full experience.

138-40 101 Avenue  Jamaica
718.526.1526

www.OlavradorRestaurant.com

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