The answer for an unforgettable meal or a brilliant future

The answer for an unforgettable meal or a brilliant future

Porto is in vogue and, like everything, this is good and bad. Cuisine has gained more than it has lost with the city’s boom. New restaurants open every week – many are “more of the same”, while others make a difference with unique gastronomic concepts and proposals.

It is always harder to do well than to do harm, and since there is no recipe for success, it is hard work and creativity that drive achievement.

It was without fear, at just 29 years of age, and with a baggage full of experience and inspiration that Vasco Coelho Santos opened Euskalduna Studio. Currently one of the best restaurants in Porto.

Like the good son that he is, he went home after some years travelling the world and building his knowledge in Lisbon, the Basque Country, London, Singapore and Japan. He learned with the best and came back the wiser for it. But with his feet firmly on the ground. His humility enables him to imbue a little of each place he visited in his identity as a chef.

We met Vasco at his grandparents’ home, in Gaia. It’s funny how the context seems unexpected for the first meeting with one of the best chefs in the country, but the location made perfect sense.

There is always an extremely personal connection between cuisine and those who dedicate their lives raising it to an art form. People, memories or important places that, at some point, become a journey, an inspiration.

Grandma Adriana is the simple explanation for Vasco’s destiny. He grew up around her and with a love for her food, which today he conveys in everything he does.

As soon as we reached his grandparents’ house, we could hear the stove at work. For Vasco, that’s how it always is when he’s there, and how it’s always been. Lunches that lasted for hours and dinners where the only place to be was always the kitchen, gathered around the saucepans and wooden spoons that would be dipped unabashedly “to see how it is”. The closeness between grandmother and grandson is palpable and reveals all of those hours simmering on the stove.

One of Grandma Adriana’s specialties is stewed oxtail that takes hours and hours to cook. We only had to wait “a little while” to taste one of the most important dishes to Vasco the grandson and Vasco the chef. Because today, this is one of the dishes that can be savoured at his restaurant, which he reinvented but is based on his grandmother’s recipe and approved by Adriana herself.

We still haven’t had the chance to go to Euskalduna Studio – its 16 places are always full for weeks in advance – but on this day we had the privilege of tasting both generations of the oxtail recipe. And no one can take that experience from us.

Without fanfare or distractions, sitting at the table with his family, we eat the best meal we could ask for. The kind of meal that invokes memories. And this is all that matters in the end; it gives us something.

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