small is beautiful: agua pela barba

Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land

I'm back with another Small is Beautiful feature! If you didn't catch my first two SIB posts, this project was born out of a desire to document and share some of the amazing independent businesses and creative projects near and dear to my heart. 

This week, I'm featuring one of my favorite Lisbon restaurants: Agua Pela Barba. I first admired the work of chef João Magalhães Correia (above right) via Instagram. When I finally made it in to the restaurant last year, I was thrilled that his food tastes 100% as amazing at it looks. João's ability to coax subtle flavors and textures out of seafood makes him one of my favorite Lisbon chefs. He and owner, João Alves (above left) have created a space that is casual, welcoming and one of the finest seafood restaurants in the city. If you find yourself in Lisbon, Agua Pela Barba most definitely needs to be on your list!

An interview with João Magalhães Correia, chef at Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon.

Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land

Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Fisherman's shack meets contemporary food.

What is your background?
I grew up in Lisbon, where I first got into cooking because my mom was, to be honest, a really bad cook. The fact that I started living on my own very early also obliged me to cook for myself at a young age. I'd always wanted to do something creative and I loved doing manual tasks. This is why I decided to drop out of law school and follow my passion by attending cooking school. Traveling is one of the things that helped me grow as a cook the most. While working in Milan I noticed the amazing respect and passion Italians have for food and for their national products. This inspired me to go back to Lisbon to try and make people as enthusiastic about local Portugese products. 

Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture?
About 2 years ago I noticed that Lisbon lacked a good quality modern fish restaurant that was affordable and not too pretentious or fancy. 
On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business?
Pissing-your-pants scared, which I guess is just below shitting-your-pants. There is a lot of competition in Lisbon and even though I knew the concept was good, I was also aware of the fact that this does not guarantee success.
What's the greatest challenge with your business?
It used to be getting people interested in the concept. Nowadays the biggest challenge is to maintain people's interest.
What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy?
I get the most joy out of people's satisfaction. People who spend their money and end up having a great night with food they loved, being able to see to that, that's what I love most about this business. 

Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land
Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land
Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land

What's on your bedside table (be honest)?
My phone and a Meditation book. 
Secret hobby and/or obsession?
Mezcal. It's not that secret though. 
Favorite city?
If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be?
Always take time to rest, a rested head thinks more clearly.

Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful?
For my personal booze fix I like to go to this place called A Tabacaria. It's a small bar in Rua São Paulo with an antique interior and good quality drinks, including a very nice Mezcal. The skilled bartender and chilled crowd make it a great place for me to have a drink after work. In the afternoon I like to visit my friend Inês who owns a mobile cocktailstand called MEXE currently placed in Martim Moniz. She makes deliciously fresh and original cocktails that are perfect for these sunny Lisbon days.

Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land

I hoped you enjoyed this Lisbon edition of Small is Beautiful! For those of you interested in exploring this beautiful city further, there are still a few spots left in my Lisbon Like a Local culinary & creative retreat this October! 

Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon. Image: Olaiya Land

spring slaw with herb-roasted salmon

spring slaw + herb-roasted salmon //

As you’ve probably figured out from previous posts, I am not the best at keeping things short and sweet.

This is part of the reason I don’t post as often as some. I love the meandering process of creating new recipes. Paging through cookbooks. Weaving my way through the farmers market. Testing. Tweaking. Pulling linens and china and silverware to find just the right pieces to set the mood. Then photographing. And finally, finding the words to describe a memory sparked by a dish, or the grain of inspiration from which it came.

As to whether I regret this slow pace, I am of two minds. 

spring slaw + herb-roasted salmon //

I post here to share recipes and thoughts and experiences. To encourage others to cook and travel and gather around the table with friends new and old. Part of me would like to share more. And more often.

And part of me knows that rushing the process would erode the joy. And likely the quality of what I create as well. 

But there is, of course, a time for short and sweet.

Right now I’m in Europe doing all sorts of marvelous things--taking a photography workshop, leading culinary tours in Paris, and doing research for a tour of Portugal in the fall. When I get back home, summer will have arrived. But I didn’t want to leave you without any spring recipe inspiration.

spring slaw + herb-roasted salmon //

So here’s a recipe I put together to celebrate the tender spring produce that should be hitting farmers markets right about now. It’s my interpretation of a delicious spring vegetable slaw I had at Manolin in Seattle. (If you’re going to be anywhere near Seattle, you need to get on over there, pronto!)

In my version, tender shaved asparagus is the star of the show. Its delicate nuttiness is beautiful against a handful of sweet shelling and snap peas. And the cruciferous tang of thinly sliced baby turnips and broccoli stalks is balanced with a creamy honey-almond vinaigrette.

This crunchy slaw is great on its own or piled high on top of a simple filet of roasted fish. Either way, it comes together in no time, short and sweet--and just right for a fresh, springtime supper.

spring slaw + herb-roasted salmon //

Spring slaw with herb-roasted salmon

  • 1 recipe herb-roasted salmon (see below)
  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • ½ cup neutral-tasting oil (I used sunflower seed oil)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons homemade or best quality store-bought mayonnaise
  • 12 oz. asparagus, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • ½ cup shelled English peas (from about 12 ounces of pods)
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, stemmed and sliced on a sharp bias
  • 5-6 baby turnips, very thinly sliced or shaved
  • 1 4- to 6-inch broccoli stem, peeled and julienned or shaved

*NOTES: Feel free to use whatever crunchy spring vegetables you find at the market for this slaw. Radishes would be lovely. Or fava beans. Morels or other mushrooms quickly sauteed with a little garlic would not be amiss. 

I use this peeler to julienne vegetables.

For a vegan version, simply omit the mayonnaise from the dressing and add an additional tablespoon or two of the almond-infused oil.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the almonds out on a rimmed sheet pan and roast until dark golden brown and fragrant, about 13 minutes. Transfer the almonds to another sheet pan or plate to cool.

When the almonds are cool, place them in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Place the ground almonds in a small saucepan and top with the oil. Heat over medium heat until the oil foams. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to infuse for at 10 minutes. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the ground almonds.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the garlic, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, cayenne and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. While whisking, gradually add ¼ cup of the almond infused oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Use any oil you have left drizzled over roasted vegetables or fish or mixed with a little honey drizzled over ice cream.)

Just before serving, dress the slaw to taste with the vinaigrette. Top with the reserved ground almonds and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Makes 4 servings

Herb-Roasted Salmon

  • 1 2- to 2 ½-lb. fillet wild salmon with skin, pin bones removed (I like Sockeye or King)

  • Olive oil

  • Coarse sea salt

  • A small bunch of mixed herb sprigs. (I used rosemary, thyme, dill, and tarragon.)

1 2- to 2 ½-lb. fillet wild salmon with skin, pin bones removed (I like Sockeye or King)
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt
A small bunch of mixed herb sprigs. I used rosemary, thyme, dill, and tarragon

Preheat oven to 300°. Arrange the herbs on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Lay the salmon on top of the herbs, skin-side down. Drizzle with olive oil rub the oil over the salmon to coat completely. Sprinkle with salt. Roast the salmon until medium rare, about 12 minutes per inch of thickness. You can start checking at about 8 minutes by inserting a paring knife in the salmon. You want it to flake and look moist, but not raw in the interior, like this. Keep in mind it will cook a bit more once you take it out of the oven.

Remove the salmon from the bed of herbs and place it on a serving dish. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with dressed slaw.

Makes 4 servings

spring slaw + herb-roasted salmon //