OSAKA – A former Portuguese diplomat has settled in Japan and is now a new type of ambassador — one for his country’s cuisine.
Eduardo Mira Batista, 50, says his restaurant, Portugalia, which opened in July in Osaka’s busy Kita Ward, is the first to offer authentic Portuguese cooking in the Kansai region.
On a rainy day late last month, women crowded the restaurant, which seats about 50, features an entrance done in red and whitewashed walls that evoke a seaside village. Bottles of beer and white wine are prominently displayed, together with plates of dried cod croquettes and stewed pork innards.
Portugalia’s menu includes dishes with rice, fish and shellfish flavored with the simple taste of tomatoes. The food is a hit customers, who say the food suits the Japanese palate.
Batista notes that Portuguese eat more rice than anyone in Europe, and adds that he doesn’t have to tailor the dishes to Japanese tastes, in part because Portuguese cooking oil has a light, subtle flavor.
Chef Clara Peixoto, 49, said she has no trouble using Japanese ingredients although she has found that Japanese vegetables have a different water content than those in Portugal.
Batista, who studied at Kyoto University, fell in love with Japan after becoming interested in karate. He later served as a counselor at the Portuguese Embassy in Tokyo and worked to promote tourism to Portugal.
He opened the eatery to introduce Portugal’s food culture to Japanese and to give them a taste of his home country.
Batista chose to open Portugalia in Osaka because his wife, Shinobu, is from here. And Kansai is where he first set foot in Japan.
Portugal is a favorite destination for seafood lovers and his customers particularly favor rice and octopus dishes, and grilled dried cod.
Batista wants more Japanese to know the attractions of Portugal, and his next goal is to hold a fado concert of Portuguese folk music at his restaurant.
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