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Senhor Antonio Tapas and Wine Bar

Whether you loved or hated the proliferation of "tapas" menus at your local dive or the revamped fancy digs around the corner, the trendy concept has certainly slowed down in favour of those who want "real-sized" portions. But even during the rampant interest in small plates dining, many were left wondering where they could get true tapas . Luckily, College Street stalwart Chiado long ago heeded their call by expanding their operations to include the pared down atmosphere of Senhor Antonio Tapas and Wine Bar. Contemporary style meets Old World service to make both seasoned diners and those who want a little more bang for the buck feel equally as comfortable.

Entering through the doors of Chiado, we're led through the main dining room to the less opulent connecting space of Senhor Antonio and offered both menus to peruse. With entrees averaging a hefty $40 plus price tag, we choose to stick with our original intention of classic Portuguese tapas and manage to even decline the server's presentation of market fresh fish. Anticipating that we could always order more, we begin with three tapas each and opt for them to be served at once.

The bread laid on our table is, in short, great. A lovely tangy balsamic vinegar and fruity virgin olive oil is available for dipping the thin oily crisp crackers and slightly salty bread. The amount offered isn't huge and is devoured quickly, but before we feel the pangs of hunger our meal arrives.

Since the seafood is brought in from waters off the coast of Portugal, we have high expectations and are not left disappointed. The Steamed Clams ($8) are plump and bathed in a salty but delicious sauce. And while the mollusk is quite tender, it's the buttery sauce we're enamoured with - so much that we resort to sipping it with a spoon after eating all the bread.

The Grilled Chorizo ($7) has a nice smokiness which permeates throughout the meat and only a mild kick accompanies the rustic taste. It's plated alongside slices of poached plum that make a surprising but amazingly sweet compliment.

A single but large shrimp arrives as the beautiful Grilled Tiger Shrimp with Piri Piri ($12) and the rough texture forewarns that it has been slightly overcooked. The piri piri spice is delicate and leaves an unexpectedly mild burn.

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Moist and tender pieces of the Pan Seared Quail ($9) are browned nicely but the bony bits of fowl make it difficult to eat all the flesh. In contrast, the Casserole of Beans and Rapini ($7) has mushy greens and the beans are rather meek in the stewed mess.

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Of the two cephalopods in the Salad of Grilled Octopus and Squid ($8), it's the squid that is absolutely remarkable. Its simple preparation results in a perky spring with each bite and rich subtle flavour underscored by smoky char. Calamari might be a favourite on many menus but so few cook it correctly. Senhor Antonio's version is perfect and arguably the best in the city.

I always like to end a meal with a bit of sugar and the Mousse de Chocolate ($12) hits the spot. Good but not spectacular, the bits of meringue were overly sweet and not the best foil for the rich and dense chocolate.

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And with that we were unexpectedly full after only three tapas each. We even had to push ourselves to finish the last bites of dessert. The heaviness in the food seems to come from a lot of oil in the dressing which is poured over each dis. Too bad we couldn't get the kitchen to dredge it up with our server who seemed to have disappeared as the tables filled up.


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