Restaurant Review: Caravela

Bring a healthy appetite when you visit this Tarrytown eatery—better to enjoy its huge portions of succulent seafood and down-home peasant dishes



PORTUGUESE Fare with flair

Bring a healthy appetite when you visit this Tarrytown eatery—better to enjoy its huge portions of succulent seafood and down-home peasant dishes.

 

Years ago I traveled with a group of wine and food journalists to learn about port wine where it’s made, in Portugal’s magnificent Douro Valley.  A press trip such as this usually means elaborate dinners to impress discerning palates. But night after night, we were served the exact same meal: a first course of caldo verde (the country’s signature soup), a main course of roast pork, and flan for dessert.

 

This became a source of amusement and some consternation to a few writers, but it certainly sunk in.  And thus I knew a few of the dishes to try at Caravela, which specializes in seafood and the hearty peasant dishes of Portugal and Brazil (colonized by the Portuguese). Located in downtown Tarrytown, Caravela offers pleasant sidewalk dining in the summer.  Inside there’s a dark but comfortable dining room decorated with every cliché associated with Portugal, including Colombus-era sailing ships.

 

My party arrived hungry, so were delighted when a plate of black olives and chunks of delicious, warm, spicy chorizo speared with toothpicks arrived almost immediately accompanied by a basket of airy Portuguese bread.  Within minutes, our appetites, and nerves were calmed.

A team of well-trained, formally dressed waiters oversees the dining room with great efficiency and skill, bringing whatever you need before you’ve even thought of it.  And our waiter steered us through the 100-bottle wine list, which leans to Portuguese wines, of course.

 

To start, we tried one of the Brazilian dishes, and were wowed by the plate of five big grilled shrimp, brushed with luscious roasted red pepper sauce and served with slices of sweet, ripe mango.  The quality of the seafood was outstanding, apparent with the crispy Ipanema snow white crab cakes, served with a sweet red pepper sauce and beurre blanc (white wine, shallots and clarified butter). In Portugal , the caldo verde I was so often served was a potato-based soup with kale and a piece of sausage—light and brothy enough to leave room for everything to follow.  Here, it was denser, saltier and packed with strips of sausage—too much even for my highly salt-tolerant palate.  

 

For entrées, we tried the paelha, a good version of the Spanish classic of saffron rice covered with shrimp, chicken, clams and mussels as large as the palm of your hand.  The roast suckling pig came on the bone, piled high enough for a tyrannosaurus, with a big creamy mound of terrific mashed potatoes.  And a big, sizzling hot fillet of bacalheu, the salted codfish that is a Portuguese favorite, was scattered with dozens of golden garlic cloves, and laid over a bed of sautéed onions and roasted sweet red peppers, in a good Portuguese olive oil.  One nice touch is the platter of mixed steamed vegetables served on the side—with all that protein, it’s nice to get some greens. Tasty black beans and rice also accompany all the entrées.

 

Caravela specializes in magnificent fruit tarts that it makes every day, with sweet pastry, custard filling and a layer of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwis, or whatever else is at hand.  The chocolate layer cake and carrot cake looked tempting on the tray—but of course we had to try the flan. And this side of the Atlantic or that, it is creamy, cool and delicious.

 

CARAVELA

53 North Broadway, Tarrytown

 (914) 631-1863

 

HOURS:

Lunch, Mon. to Sat. 12-3 pm

Dinner, Mon. to Fri. 5-9:30 pm, Sat. 5-10:30 pm, Sun. 1-9 pm

 

PRICES:

Appetizers: $5-$8

Entrées: $16-$22

Desserts: $6.50