Portuguese Food, Part Two: Cod Cakes, Freshly Made Potato Chips, And Don’t-Miss Desserts

Continuing my exploration of Portuguese food, the next stop was Churrasqueira Ribatejo in Ossining. The fluffiest, best Portuguese rolls ever were already on the table, all the welcome we needed. Patrons argued politics at the bar, with a close-up view of a serious-looking grill. One could (and we did) sit through an entire meal in the casual front dining room without being aware of a more secluded back room with a fireplace, used during busier hours.

Cod cakes at Churrasqueira Ribatejo balanced the fish-to-potato ratio masterfully

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I’d missed out on cod cakes (bolos de bacalhau) at the other Westchester places, so they were on my agenda. Surely these were the best I’d ever had, flavorful but not too fishy, strong on the potato but not to the point where it seemed like filler. Order as many or few as you like. An $8 large house salad surprised us by being a family-sized bowl with tongs. Chouriço assado (grilled smoked Portuguese sausage) with pickled vegetables lacked the drama and flavor of the flambé presentation we’d seen elsewhere. Shrimp cakes and sautéed littleneck clams are among the other starters.

Later in the meal, our eyes followed a plate of charred, grilled octopus on its way to another table. But we were happy with the house special rotisserie chicken, seasoned enough to make a statement without putting anyone off. Side orders of string beans and broccoli were plain but good, and as an afterthought, we ordered the Portuguese chips, expecting just fried potatoes. But these were real potato chips, freshly made and warm. Do unsalted potato chips have the right to be so good? It was like tasting homemade popcorn for the first time.

Who knew plain potato chips could be so seductive?

We argued politics ourselves over red wine and Portuguese Super Bock before realizing that our order of “traditional Portuguesa,” sautéed steak topped with a fried egg, had been inadequately conveyed or forgotten. But did we really have room? We weren’t in the mood for ice cream and they were out of flan, but no matter. My bakery radar had spotted a place across the square. We sauntered over there with all the leisure of those whose parking meter reads FAIL.

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This was Douro Café, a Portuguese/Uruguayan bakery, where a few men conversed over tall glasses of cappuccino. If you like the egg custard pastries sold in Chinatown, the Portuguese type here (pastel de nata) might just blow your mind as being way better. The flakiest of puff pastry shells holds the lightest, most tasty custard, caramelized to a burn on top.

Serradura pudding (left) and pastel de nata are two of the top picks at Douro Café

The runner up, among our eyes-bigger-than-stomach sized sampling, was the Portuguese dessert serradura (sawdust pudding), layers of vanilla-flavored whipped cream alternating with crumbled Maria biscuit. We ended up wishing we had bought two. The chocolate coating on oversized alfajores (dulce de leche sandwich cookies) seemed like gilding the lily, but the dulce de leche filling was the best I’d had since making it at home. Next time, I’ll try one of their éclairs filled with the stuff. This isn’t really the place to get a Napoleon or tiramisu, and I’ll throw in a general advisory against any Latin version of a croissant, including the Uruguayan one here—except for research purposes, of course.

Churrasqueira Ribatajo
39 Spring St
Ossining
(914) 941-5928
Douro Café
123 Main St
Ossining
​(914) 236-3322; facebook.com/DouroCafe

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