O Santos is one of the most authentic Portuguese restaurants in Macau. Simple, down to earth and extremely homey, it’s not a place for fine dining, more like what you’d get if you went to your friend’s house for dinner. (Assuming he or she is Portuguese and a big time soccer fan.)
A look at their online menu also confirms this feeling: portion sizes are large and generous, while the dishes look like something you’d enjoy at a family barbecue. Sure enough, the food I tried there tasted like something my mother could have made.
Overall I think O Santos food deserves a very solid 4 stars. Authentic, down home, and totally unpretentious, consistency is surely the hallmark trait of this restaurant. You’ll know what you’ll get before you order, because that’s how they’ve been doing it for over 20 years, and probably how they’ll keep doing it for 20 more.
With that being said however, it’s difficult for food made in this manner to completely blow your mind. O Santos isn’t the place to pull Michelin heavies or ponder truffles and trifles for three hours, so understand that going in.
Highly rated by a lot of people and a favourite of the local Portuguese, O Santos is often busy, so reservations are a must during weekends and peak times.
Prices are excellent for Macau, as our dinner for two only ran $530, which included two Caldo Verde soups ($38), one Octopus Salad ($118), and two mains: Pork Chop with Onions ($168) and Portuguese Chicken ($168).
A fantastic value option in Taipa Village, O Santos is a place I’ll definitely return to time and again. A good meal at a great price is a wonderful thing.
My second visit to Santos basically reconfirmed everything I learned my first time there. I wasn’t interested in any of their appetizers so they did me a favour and turned two mains into two starters, by giving me half portions. They didn’t exactly charge half price though, ringing me up for $110 when I expected it to be $84, since both full size portions were $168.
Anyway, it was no big bother and I really really enjoyed the Lamb Stew with Clams, a pairing I had never seen before.
Usually it’s Pork and Clams in this town but the lamb worked exceptionally well too, and given how good it was, Santos might want to consider making it a standard appetizer.
The second dish didn’t work as an appetizer, given how heavy the sauce was. The Lamb Stew Alentejo style was made from the same cut of lamb as the clams, but served in a tomato sauce instead, along with bread and potatoes.
Consider this dish as a main and nothing else, but remember to order rice with it, just to soak up all of the rich beautiful sauce.
My main was the Porco a Preto ($198), the Special Pork, a staple Portuguese dish made from the prized Iberian black pig. If it’s done right it has all the char, consistency and taste of a great steak, which I had the pleasure of experiencing firsthand at the outstanding Alfama Cellar in Lisbon.
Santos’s version came nowhere close that masterpiece, sufficiently lacking the soft texture and long glorious finish that all amazing steaks have. In a good mood, maybe I’d give it 3.75 out of 5, but I wouldn’t order it again.
I don’t know if it was a billing error or not, but I was only charged half for the pork, even though I’m pretty sure it was the full serving.
I ended things off with two desserts: Home Made Ice Cream, which is actually Serradura and Chocolate Mousse, both of which were $40.
The serradura was pretty ordinary, too dry and flaky for my liking, while the mousse was right on point, deliciously deep and sweet.
Perhaps the thing to do is combine the two by piling the mousse on top of the serradura to make one superhero dessert. That’s what I did and it improved the serradura tenfold.
Santos has a wide range of wines that vary in price, but the Bispado Vinho for $100 should be good enough. All told my dinner bill for one came to just $510, which probably should have been $598 had they added it up correctly.
I’ve recently gotten a couple of good tidbits about Santos – one, it’s better to go at lunch since everything is fresher then and two, go off menu by requesting the crab curry and bacalhau face. Both are said to be outstanding, and I will be trying both of them myself very soon.
** UPDATE **
True to my word, I returned in late March 2020 for those two dishes, making sure to visit at lunch, of course.