The flavors of spring are one reason to visit Lisbon Cafe.
And those of summer, autumn and winter are the others at this inviting restaurant, the warm and evocative offspring of a Mineola mainstay, Heart of Portugal. It's just as good and sometimes better.
Lisbon Cafe moves into the cozy space that formerly housed 490 West and, before that, Camille's. There are two dining rooms, each a handsome antidote to glitz. The look: light, modest and restrained -- except for a small suit of armor that acts as a room divider.
Chef and co-owner Agripino Ferreira is a veteran from Heart of Portugal, as well as A Taberna in Island Park. His focus is as clear as the taste of his food.
Nibble on the crunchy, gratis, house-made potato chips, and then start with some fireworks: chouriço, flambéed tableside. The savory, sliced pork sausage and some broa, the dense, yeasty Portuguese cornbread, combine for a little meal by themselves.
Grilled octopus, tender and meaty, arrives with roasted peppers, onions, and garlic. Shrimps in garlic sauce, the shrimp cocktail, and gently seasoned cod cakes are all fine. They're trailed by routine seafood-stuffed baked clams, bland stuffed mushrooms, and chewy grilled calamari.
Ferreira, however, prepares an excellent caldo verde, the soulful kale-and-potato soup with chouriço; and an aromatic, generous sopa de mariscos, with shrimp, scallops and crabmeat. By now, you'll be using more broa as a sponge.
The cafe's seafood combination in green sauce is a bit overcooked, as are the lobster stuffed with seafood and the paella Valenciana. You're better off with the bacalhau a Lagareiro, or cod with roasted peppers, onions, potatoes, olive oil and garlic.
And Ferreira sends out an outstanding carne de porco à Alentejana, the delicious Iberian equivalent of surf-and-turf. It's the classic union of braised pork and clams from Alentejo, just north of the Algarve.
Chanfana de cabrito, or braised goat with red wine, has the texture of osso buco, and is a rich main dish. There's competition from the coelho à caçador, or vinous, stewed rabbit; and the grilled rack of lamb with spinach.
The flan wobbles in caramel sauce. Have it, or the cream-cookie crumb natas do céu, instead of the dry cheesecake and the dull chocolate lava cake.
Lisbon Cafe also has the ever-ready, tartufo ice-cream ball, so you can get a head start on summer.