Before happening upon Café Sintra, I can't say I had ever experienced true Portuguese cuisine. I've had many meals with related Mediterranean and pan-European accents, sure. But never the distinct flavors that come from a Portuguese kitchen. Now a frequent Sintra visitor, I can now see that the Portuguese and me are cut from the same culinary cloth.Heavy on cured and marinated meats, fragrant fresh herbs like cilantro, basil and parsley, as well as a truckload of onions and garlic, Sintra's savory side is right up my alley. And while I don't have much of a sweet tooth, my most frequent co-diner often goes in that direction at Sintra, ordering from an attractive selection of fresh pastries, pancakes, Belgian waffles and a striking sourdough French toast dipped in vanilla custard. Even the oatmeal and house-made granola stand out, making Sintra the kind of place where you can easily become a regular for their everyday, reasonably priced breakfast and lunch options downtown (most everything is under $10). There is also a Sunriver location that I have not visited but which serves the same menu.
For breakfast, I almost always go for one of the excellent egg dishes that come with a variety basket of toast and crispy Sintra potatoes. The Italian spicy sausage and mozzarella omelette with fresh Roma tomatoes is a favorite as is the Sintra Eggs Benedict served with a side of Italian link sausage, ham, bacon or linguiça (a cured pork sausage resembling chorizo). But since discovering the scramble with linguiça, sautéed onions, mushrooms and fresh cilantro I haven't looked back.
Now that I'm thinking about it, linguiça plays prominently in my lunchtime decision-making at Sintra as well. You can get linguiça on your pizzetta with red onions and roasted peppers. Or, if you're in a sandwich mood, there's the Portuguesa: linguiça with sautéed onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms and herb mayonnaise. A recent soup of the day, caldo verde, was a lovely thin broth with shredded greens and chunks of linguiça and potato.
But most often I cannot resist the marinated steak and linguiça skewers served with a Mediterranean salad of marinated cabbage, red onions and Roma tomatoes in an olive oil dressing. The balance of the crisp, bright flavors in the salad and the charred, savory richness of the grilled meat is perfect. I also love the soulful Portuguese chicken stew with shredded chicken, white beans and roasted green chiles, topped with Mozzarella cheese and sour cream. You can imagine an iron pot of it brewing on the stove of a small farmhouse near the town of Sintra, the restaurant's namesake pictured in photographs hanging on the walls. Tasting the skewers and the stew, the two dishes that are most entrée-like on the menu, makes me very curious to see what Sintra would do for dinner.
The only drawback to Café Sintra is its size. The service here comes with an attitude that you can only get in this sort of family owned and run place and the food is so hearty and comforting that it would ideally be served in a much cozier, closer space. The sidewalk seating and bright, spacious dining room on Bond are pleasant enough, but not nearly as warm as the meals it's serving. But that is a minor complaint and certainly no reason to stay away. And since my very first visit, I haven't.
1024 NW Bond St., 382-8004
7 a.m. - 3 p.m. daily