The prestigious culinary accolade comes less than 12 months after the restaurant, originally founded in 1958, re-opened under the direction of executive chef José Avillez.
In that time, Avillez has established Belcanto as one of the capital’s most respected fine dining hot spots, and the nod from Michelin has sealed a very successful first year.
“It is very important for us,” Avillez acknowledges, describing his reaction to the honour.
Jose Avillez (centre, right) toasts chef de cuisine David Jesus and the Belcanto kitchen team. — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
In fact, it’s the second time the young Portuguese chef has been recognised by Michelin. He gained his first star in 2009 while head chef at Tavares Rico, Lisbon’s oldest restaurant. At the beginning of 2011 he left to oversee two new projects, the refurbishment of Belcanto and the development of a second restaurant, Cantinho do Avillez. Ironically, Tavares has lost its star status for 2013, making Belcanto and Feitoria the city’s only two shining examples.
Several members of Belcanto's kitchen team also worked with Avillez at Tavares, and this continuity has been an important factor in the restaurant’s evolution.
“They trust me, and I them,” stresses Avillez. “They share the same passion for food as I do and I think that it’s the respect we have for our cuisine, and the respect we have for our guests, that won us back our star.”
The haute cuisine served at Belcanto perfectly reflects Avillez’s prowess in the kitchen. His creative energy and witty character is exemplified by dishes such as 'hen that laid the golden eggs garden' (egg, crunchy bread and mushrooms) and 'skate Jackson Pollock' (better to just ask!). Indeed, a recent New York Times article praised Avillez for bringing to Lisbon’s restaurant scene “playfulness, modernism and global sophistication”.
And Michelin obviously agrees.