Something’s Fishy about this Sandwich

Fischbrötchen in Hamburg, GermanyI mentioned, in my last post, that they’re pretty seafood crazy here in Hamburg.  Specifically, they seem to really love fish sandwiches, because pretty much everywhere you go near the water, there are about a million different vendors serving them up.

The most famous sandwiches are the Bismark, which consists of pickled herring and onion, and Matjes, which consists of a different type of pickled herring, also served with onion.

I should probably note that the last time I had pickled herring, I hated it.  I also really don’t like raw onion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Michael, if you don’t like pickled herring, and you don’t like raw onion, why would you eat a sandwich that consists entirely of pickled herring and raw onion?

That’s an excellent question.

I mean, other than the fact that I’m clearly insane?  I just felt obligated.  These sandwiches are such a big deal here that I needed to know what all the fuss was about, even if I was pretty confident I wasn’t going to enjoy it.  I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

Fish sandwiches from Fischbrötchen in Hamburg, Germany

I was not pleasantly surprised.

The pickled herring was as I remembered it — fishy, vinegary, mushy, and in your face. It’s an acquired taste if there ever was one, and it’s a taste that I have very decidedly not acquired.  Though I typically don’t like raw onion, it was actually kind of welcome here, if only because it was the only thing to cut the pungent intensity of the herring.

Of the two sandwiches, I definitely preferred the Matjes — it was, at least, a bit mellower.  It wasn’t quite the unforgiving assault of fishy sourness.  But no, it wasn’t particularly good — just slightly less unpleasant than the other one.

Adding insult to injury?  That fishy, oniony flavour lingered on my palate for the entire day.  It  was the worst.

Like Fish and Chips, but Better

RestaurantSeafood is huge here in Hamburg — aside from the fact that the Elbe river runs right through the city, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are both super close.  Notwithstanding a tragic incident involving a dropped fish sandwich worth 12 Euros, this was my first time eating seafood here.

And oh man, it was so good.


I went to a place called Fisch & Co. and had the Pannfisch.  This consists of fried pieces of a couple of different types of fish topped with some kind of mustard sauce, served with a side of pan-fried potatoes and a salad.

That fish was absolutely perfect.  The breading was nice and crispy, but without ever distracting from the star of the show.  And the fish itself — which consisted of pieces of some kind of whitefish along with salmon — was moist and flaky and amazing, with the mustard sauce complimenting it perfectly.

The potatoes were really good, too — sliced thin to maximize the crispy-to-creamy ratio, they were basically like hash browns, but the best hash browns you’ve ever had.

Holy Crap, Look at that View

Good stuffI’ve eaten at restaurants with a nice view before, but I’m pretty confident that this one takes the cake.

It’s called Cantina das Freiras; it’s run by a local Catholic organization, and it’s one of those places that’s impossible to find if you don’t already know about it.  Here’s a picture of the alley you’ll find it in (it’s the first door on the right — note the complete absence of any signage indicating a restaurant is here):

Yes, there's a restaurant here

You go up a few flights of stairs, order your food cafeteria-style, then you’re free to carry your tray outside and take in the magnificent view.

I just pointed at the tray of the lady in front of me and asked for the same stuff (this is the sort of thing you have to do to save yourself the indignity of staring blankly back at a person after being asked something in a language you don’t understand).

Okay food, great view

So I wound up with a piece of pan-fried fish, some pretty basic potatoes, and a salad.  The food was fine, if nothing particularly special, but it was only €6.50, and did you see that view?  That alone is reason enough to come; the delightfully affordable food is just a bonus.

Check out some more pictures after the jump.

Tasty Eats at the Time Out Market

The Time Out Market in Lisbon is one of those places that you’re pretty much obligated to visit as a tourist; a gourmet food hall curated by a group of journalists, with the idea being that all of the few dozen or so stalls are offering above-average food.

After a lot of wandering around and hemming and hawing (the abundance of delicious looking food makes it an indecisive person’s nightmare) I settled on bacalhau rice with clams from a booth called Miguel Castro e Silva.

Bacalhau — dried and salted cod which is then rehydrated to serve — is basically a national obsession here, so I knew I’d have to try it at least once.  In this dish, it’s served with a risotto-esque rice along with a handful of tasty clams.

It’s quite good — the rice was swimming in a rich broth, and the whole thing had a really intense seafoody flavour.  There was only a small piece of bacalhau here, but it was flavourful with a great flaky texture; it and the clams complimented the rice quite well.

It was solid, though at €12.50 (about $18.50 Canadian), it was a bit on the pricey side for a dish that didn’t quite knock my socks off.

The Portuguese really love Sardines

Sardine storeNeed proof?  There’s a novelty store in downtown Lisbon that looks like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — and they only sell colourful cans of sardines with various years printed on them.

Sardine store

To my great shame, I did not buy a can of sardines.  Some sardine fan I am.