So far this year, I have to say that my favorite restaurant in L.A. is Natas Pastries, a Portuguese restaurant in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley AKA The Valley–yes, that valley that pop culture associates with so-called Valley Girls some decades ago. Needless to say, I usually do not venture out to the Valley that much, especially with the million distractions where I live right in central L.A. surrounded by the neighborhoods of Downtown AKA DTLA, Koreatown AKA Ktown, Hollywood, Silverlake, and Mid-City. However, as part of my local birthday celebrations (yes, on top of the Vegas shenanigans), Tai surprised me by taking me here one chilly winter Sunday evening via the northbound 101 freeway. After she drove through and past the Hollywood freeway, I felt clueless about where we were going since I have limited knowledge of the territory beyond Universal Studios in North Hollywood. She parked in a residential street and we then walked over a few blocks to Ventura Blvd. and Fulton Ave. in Sherman Oaks. Once we made our way to the entrance of Natas, I became instantly excited since I love Portuguese food! That may sound random, especially since this is not necessarily a popular option in L.A.. Well, we traveled to Lisbon and Belem in Portugal last year (flashback post coming soon). Tai presented her critical feminist literacy research project at a conference there and I accompanied her as a cheerleader and travel companion. Anyway, while in Portugal, we tried and loved a lot of food! Since coming back, we have not really eaten any Portuguese cuisine since we have no clue where to get some. But, thanks to a $49 Groupon deal for Natas, we enjoyed a three-course meal with two glasses of Portuguese wine!
Upon entering Natas, a pastry counter welcomed us–immediately inviting us to take a peek of Portuguese treats, such as the signature pastry called pasteis de nata. This room at the entrance is the bakery part of the restaurant. After admiring the delightful delicacies, a friendly staff member greeted us warmly and walked us over to an adjacent dining room that is bigger than the pastry room. The walls had tiles reminiscent of the handmade ones that we have seen all over Lisbon. There is only about seven tables of various sizes spread in the room, making it an intimate magical place. Our hostess brought us to the table by the window that only seats two people. It had candles lit, adding a romantic ambience.
Our server then came and asked if we wanted red or white wine. Then, we had our first course of house salad. After examining the menu, Tai ordered the baked salmon and I chose the “Bife a Casa”, which was a “New York Steak in a Cognac Peppercorn Sauce with mashed Potatoes.” The salmon was spread on a bed of mashed potatoes with lemon caper sauce and topped with asparagus. I tasted it and it was amazing! However, my steak was ten times more delicious than her salmon. Bife a Casa probably tasted like what the royalty used to eat up in the Moorish castle, Castelo de Sao Jorge in the hills of Lisbon back in the day. It was absolutely divine and the best steak I have ever had in my life! After our entree, our server gave us some natas, the custard pastry sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. To our surprise, it tasted pretty close to the fresh ones that we have tried all over Lisbon and Belem. Although not included in the Groupon deal, we each ordered a little cup of cafe’ or, really, espresso. When we were in Lisbon, the locals ate natas with cafe’, so we honored this tradition.
Aside from the great food and ambience, we love this restaurant because of the very friendly staff and the sweet scent coming from the in-house bakery. Next time, I will post about the time we had brunch there with some friends who live nearby. For now, Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!
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