Neighbourhood: West End
Address: 714 Sargent Ave
O Tacho is a cozy space full of lively neighbours eating, chatting and drinking as though at home in Portugal. Clay pots of various shapes and sizes decorate the otherwise nautical-themed room. “O Tacho” means “the pot” in Portuguese, and most dishes are served in the humble cooking vessel.
Peeking into the open kitchen reveals a Portuguese grandmother happily feeding her extended family. In the front of the house, son-in-law and owner Tony Goncalves welcomes guests with a basket of impossibly fresh bread and a bowl of tiny still-on-the-vine olives. For the uninitiated, he takes the time to passionately describe the nuances of Portuguese cuisine.
To start, mixed croquettes amuse with a variety of shapes, textures and flavours: golden half moons encase a creamy lemon tuna mixture; crispy brown ovals hold mild cod and spiced potatoes; and buttery baked pastry tubes are filled with tender beef, ground and marinated in-house.
A big bowl of traditional caldo verde is nearly a meal in itself. Beneath the surface of the creamy green potato soup are chunks of superb house-made spicy chorizo
Alcatra arrives at the table sizzling and spitting (or “singing”, as the host says). Beef is simmered patiently in red wine and spices, and the result is a moist roast that bursts with the flavour of its marinade. Every last drop of its rich, meaty sauce can be spooned over the accompanying boiled potatoes.
The colourful and fragrant arroz con marisco is Portugal’s rendition of Spain’s paella. A boatload of mussels, clams, shrimp, squid and octopus is tossed with rice and peppers, and steeped in a sharp saffron tomato broth.
A pile of curly octopus tentacles (polvo a lagareiro) is lightly brushed with olive oil and grilled until the skin is crispy and the meat is heavenly-soft. Three plump baked potatoes sprinkled with tiny cubes of fried garlic served on the side finish off this substantial dish.
Bacalhau a lagareiro, another delightfully simple Portuguese favourite, is an enormous fillet of cod, bathed in olive oil and grilled golden brown. The delicate white flesh stays moist and picks up the subtle flavours of the olive oil and toasted garlic. On the side: a field of black eyed peas and chickpeas—both cooked al dente in the same garlic-infused olive oil.
For dessert, saunter into the kitchen to select from a dozen traditional sweets. Standouts include a gooey, ultra-sweet coconut cake topped with fluffy meringue, and molotoff, a sweet caramel-like sauce whipped with egg whites and set atop a toasty crust.
The wine list features several Portuguese options, and, of course, an impressive selection of ports.
O Tacho is open Tue-Sun 11:30 am-midnight.