Price: $10 – $15 (cash only)
Location: 3532 Commercial St., Vancouver
It was one of unplanned dinners. Two friends and I went to Casa Verde in search of affordable but tasty food… mission accomplished. I first heard of this place from a colleague of mine at work – apparently it’s been around for years. To be honest, this is my first time having real Portuguese, so there wasn’t a benchmark for me to compare this restaurant to. I had to charge the food by its own merit.
Location & Ambiance (7 out of 10)
The restaurant locates near the intersection where Commercial Drive becomes Victoria Drive, right by the Skytrain line. It’s within walking distance from the Broadway/Commercial Skytrain station. The surrounding is residential/commercial, with no other restaurants in sight. When we arrived at the restaurant, there was no one on the street. The front doors of the restaurant were closely shut and window-less, which didn’t give the place more creditability. Once we stepped in, I think we were simply relieved that there were other people in this dim restaurant. Sketchy would sum up my first impression.
The interior is simplistic and certainly alludes to its age. We were seated at a table of our own choosing. There are two dining rooms. The main room where we were sits about 30 people. It’s slightly dark from the lack of natural light. The front doors have no windows and the only two windows were draped with blinds. Everything on the table seemed fairly clean. On the walls, there are plenty of football memorabilia, predominately Portuguese. It was truly a family restaurant. The owner’s family were actually having their dinner and chatting at the tables right next to ours. It kind of reminded me the movie scenes where large Mediterranean families having dinner while talking loudly.
Food & Wine (9 out of 10)
Since it’s the first time that all three had Portuguese food, we asked the waitress for recommendations. My knowledge of Portuguese cuisine limits to what I know about Spanish cuisine – extensive use of seafood, pork, olive oil, and spices. We ordered everything to share, just to go with the family restaurant theme.
To start, we had the Lulas Grelhadas, whole squids grilled and pan fried in olive oil, lemon juice, brandy, and garlic. For entrees, we had Carne de Porco Alentejana, “a mélange of pan-fried marinated pork cubes, chouriço slices and steamed clams tossed together in a garlicky house sauce, and like Portuguese poutine, ladled over a rumpus of homemade fries” (Vancouver Magazine). We also had grilled quails, in a slightly spicy sauce, served with fries (I can’t remember the name of the dish in Portuguese). The squids were amazingly tender, and the sauce was flavourful. The fries were crispy outside while fluffy inside and are apparently deep-fried in olive oil, which did give them that extra something. The combination of pork, chouriço, clams was superb, with each ingredient parting its own flavour to the dish. The quails were, for me, a little overdone. I would have liked it to be medium, but ours were well-done. The spices and sauces in all three dishes were excellent, and we put the Portuguese buns to good use by sulking up everything on the bottom.
The desserts didn’t seem that exciting – rice putting and crème caramel. We opted for gelato at La Casa to finish off the night. In terms of presentation, the dishes are very simple. Everything on the plate was edible. The ingredients were simple but treated with care. The portion was also very reasonable. I would be full with just the entrée. The quail dish, $13.95, had two quails and plenty of fries.
To accompany the meal, we had half-litre of “green wine” (Vinho Verde). Green refers not to the colour but the youthful freshness. It is produced in the Minho region in the far north of Portugal. The wine is refreshing and slightly sweet with a fruity and floral aroma. Also, it has some pétillance. The wine is a great pairing with seafood and dishes that are somewhat spicy. It has instantly become one of my favourite wines.
Service (8 out of 10)
There was only one waitress for the whole time that we were there. It was manageable given the small number of people in the restaurant. She was quite friendly and warm, and seemed knowledgeable with the cuisine and wine. A discussion of football inevitably took place, during which we found out that our waitress is from Brazil and a fan of the Brazilian national team. Generally, the service was prompt, and the dishes came to the table in decent speed and within good intervals.
Conclusion (Highly Recommended)
I highly recommend this place for a home-cooked meal in a casual setting at an affordable price. To top it all, you will also get a taste of Portugal and football. Overall, I rate it 8.5 out of 10, in comparison to restaurants in the same category.