Sintra

Food: () Outstanding preparation, especially of Portuguese dinner entrees

Service: () Counter orders are replaced by white-tablecloth service in the evening

Atmosphere: () Dining room renovation has added more sophistication to cafe

More info

Location: 1024 NW Bond St., Bend

Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Portuguese and American

Price range: Breakfast $6.50 to $14.50, lunch $9 to $14; dinner starters $5 to $10, entrees $14 to $32

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Several choices

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Choices include a stuffed portobello mushroom

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Sidewalk tables in summer

Reservations: Highly recommended

Contact: cafesintra.com, 541-382-8004

For more area restaurant reviews, visit bendbulletin.com/restaurants.

My dining companion thought she didn’t like octopus.

She thought it was rubbery or chewy. She thought it had a musty flavor.

Then, she stole a bite of my grilled octopus at Sintra. It was a revelation.

One bite led to two, and three. The next thing I knew, one full tentacle had disappeared from my plate. “I never knew!” she exclaimed. “This is as good as crab legs!”

Prepared with garlic-infused olive oil and served with oven-roasted potatoes, the “Polvo à Lagareiro” made a great surf-and-turf pairing with our other entree, Portuguese steak (“Bitoque à Portuguesa”), which had been her order.

That sirloin, sauteed medium-rare in olive oil and garlic, was topped with prosciutto and a fried egg. We accompanied the courses with sauteed Padrón peppers (similar to shishito peppers), arugula salad and Feijoada, a delicious bean stew with pork and linguiça sausage, popular in Portugal and Brazil. And we finished with a wonderful almond tart.

“Modern Portuguese cuisine is similar to French,” said executive chef Marcelo Bento. But its generous use of olive oil, garlic and paprika, along with fresh seafood and port wines, give it a flavor all its own.

Putting on the Ritz

Bento’s culinary skills are one of the biggest reasons that the former Café Sintra, a popular breakfast-and-lunch stop on Bond Street since 2004, has been rebranded from its casual cafe designation. Sintra still offers its earlier meals, but in the evening, it becomes a white-tablecloth dinner house with an extensive menu of Portuguese entrees and Iberian tapas.

One of only two purely Portuguese restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, Sintra put on its new face with the arrival of Bento from Ritz-Carlton’s Penha Long Resort. Not coincidentally, that resort is located in Sintra, Portugal, the seaside Lisbon suburb where restaurant owner Manuel dos Santos was raised. Bento is his nephew.

“Marcelo is an excellent chef and a great manager,” dos Santos said.

“It’s really all him. He was motivated to create a menu and a concept that we felt would complement Café Sintra’s breakfast and lunch. It was the perfect opportunity to expand our business with a family member who is creative, passionate, and has a background in hospitality.”

Bento, 32, was trained as a chef and in hotel management. Before joining the Ritz, he had been manager of the acclaimed Terreiro do Paço restaurant in the heart of Lisbon. He first came to Bend in 2015 with his girlfriend, Constança Souta. They left the following year to renew their visas and marry, but returned in 2017 and have started a family.

Dos Santos, 48, grew up in the restaurant business: When he was 5, his mother opened a gourmet restaurant, Faz Figura. For a youngster, this was culinary heaven. “I especially remember how the chefs always hooked me up with desserts,” he said. “But I never thought that someday I’d have a restaurant of my own.”

Fast forward to the 1990s. Dos Santos graduated from Fresno State University and moved with his wife to Oregon. He opened the original Café Sintra in Sunriver in 2000, added a second restaurant in downtown Bend in 2004, and sold the first cafe three years later to focus on Bend business.

Two in one

With the transition to dinners, Sintra feels like two different restaurants, depending upon the time of day of a visit. Mornings and middays are casual, as always. Diners order at the counter — a former island that has been extended to one wall to include a full bar — and wait for meals to be delivered to their tables.

Diners like the cafes European flair for breakfast and lunch. “We import Portuguese sausages and cheeses,” dos Santos noted, “and we have a stew on the menu that is very popular.”

That chicken stew, a recipe that dos Santos learned from his mother, has kept me coming back time and again for lunch. A rich broth of chicken and white beans is mixed with additional shredded chicken, beans and roasted green chilies, then topped with sliced green apples, mozzarella cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

My favorite breakfast is Sintra’s egg-and-spinach crêpe. I also like the linguiça scramble with sausage, sauteed onions, mushrooms and fresh cilantro.

By evening, the lights are turned down and cloths adorn the tables. The staff provide prompt, professional table service, beginning with drink orders and continuing to dessert. Bento may emerge from the kitchen to discuss food options.

A sampling of petiscos (small plates) and tapas, mostly priced $4 to $10, include such dishes as Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato (steamed clams), Cornichos Fritos (fried calamari tentacles) and Solomillo Com Brie (steak and cheese with a soy glaze on bruschetta). Entrees ($18 to $28) include chicken piri-piri (roasted with an African chili-pepper sauce) and Filetes de Bacalhau (battered and pan-fried cod with onions and sweet peppers on a spinach-potato cake).

As a cuisine, Portuguese is not quite Spanish, not quite French, not quite Italian. Indeed, Portugal is not technically a Mediterranean country — it faces the Atlantic Ocean from the west end of the Iberian Peninsula — but it has elements thereof.

“We incorporate Mediterranean flavors as much as possible,” dos Santos said.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .

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