The Illegal Chinese Restaurant - Rua da Guia no. 9
A Lisbon Local Secret
Tucked away in the rarely-visited side streets of Martim Moniz, past a small ginjinha bar, on the right, is an open door. This is not just a home. This is a family-run Chinese restaurant in disguise. The nearly 80 items on their menu range from seafood, to meat, to veggies, soups, and noodles. Go with friends – they will be so impressed with your local knowledge! Share bowls of rice, get one more dish from the menu than you have number of people and pass it around. Even with drinks and complimentary oranges for dessert, you'll still be challenged to spend more than 8€ per person.
To get there, walk or take the metro to Martim Moniz. Walking up from the south end of the plaza, stick to the right side and follow Rua da Mouraria until you see the statue of a Portuguese guitar on your right. That signifies the beginning of Rua do Capelão. Follow this narrow street through a small plaza and it will turn into Rua da Guia. Entering a second small plaza, the restaurant is on the left at no. 9. The door will be open as long as they’re serving.
Walk up the winding stairs and you’ll start hearing pots and pans and, of course, you’ll smell the food. Someone will meet you at the top of the stairs and set you down at a table with a menu, a piece of paper, and a pencil. The menu is only available in Chinese and Portuguese, so you may want to study up a bit before you go. Write down the numbers representing the dishes you want and a ‘x10’ next to #73 (beer). Your drinks will come first, along with complimentary rice cakes. And once the dishes start coming, they come fast – so work quickly.
They offer chopsticks and I suggest you use them or learn to – they actually have instructions on the back. Very professional. If you can’t do it, they do have forks and spoons…but I am disappointed in you.
Oh, and remember that small ginjinha bar I mentioned? You'll find it on Rua do Capelão, on your way out of the alley to Martim Moniz, and it's the perfect place for a liquid dessert. The owner will light up when you enter and will persuade you to stay for some pomegranate seeds and maybe a free drink or two – if he likes you. Meanwhile, he loves to show you his old photos and is delighted to pose for new ones.
Thanks, Sofie, for exposing me to this amazing restaurant, and my apologies for spilling the beans.