It was in the belly of World City where I realized how Vasco da Gama must have felt when he discovered India.

With so few Portuguese options in Beijing – the city’s main claim is its restaurant named after Portuguese adventurer Luís Vaz de Camões in the Legendale Hotel – the opening of Santos Bar and Grill is a welcome find. Its draws: fiery peri peri chicken, a selection of stone-baked Mediterranean breads and a festive chorizo sauce.

Santos wouldn’t be a Portuguese restaurant without this flame-grilled bird (RMB 45-140), available in its entirety, halved, quartered, or as a fillet. It’s marinated with piri piri, Portuguese for “pepper-pepper,” and enough of it – Santos features a spice-o-meter that starts off with a docile lemon and herb, but tests the bravest diners with an eye-watering “A-bomb” level of chillies. Temper it with a slab of eixo, an oily bread generously topped with sun-dried tomatoes and green olives (RMB 55), or mira, a pita covered in buffalo mozzarella, red onion and chilli beef (RMB 65). The bread was served on the dry side, so soak the strips in aioli, balsamic vinegar, or a delectable chorizo sauce (RMB 18).

The menu goes so far as to cover grill basics like saucer-sized burgers and even a Beijing rarity: the Sloppy Joe (RMB 95). I only wish they had taken a tip from the Portuguese-American moms out there and spiced it with chorizo, while cranking up the dial on the sloppiness. Call me once that ground beef is dripping out the back of the toasted bun.

Their RMB 49 business lunch includes dishes that aren’t available on the full menu, so arguably, 11.30am-12.30pm is the best time to snag a pour from their wine list and test the waters.

Also try: Camões Portuguese Restaurant, Carmen

Santos Bar and Grill
Daily 11am-late. E138, Bldg 8, World City, 9 Jinhui Lu, Chaoyang District (6566 9995)
600m south of Dongdaqiao station (Line 6)

A version of this article appears in the March 2014 issue of the Beijinger.

Photos: Sui

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