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Martins Churrasqueira & Grill House – Authentic Portuguese Two Ways

By Stephanie Dickison

Martins Churrasqueira & Grill House offers the best of both worlds – a separate takeout and casual eat-in spot located around the corner from the finer dining restaurant, Martins Sala. Choose which suits you best. The family business began July 1, 2009, with Carlos Martins at the helm – and continues through the generations with sons Steven, John-Michael and Rui carrying on the tradition of the quintessential food of their father and grandfather’s southern European homeland. While trends come and go elsewhere in the city, this restaurant and takeout in the west end is booming, and expanding. Carlos created the original menu, and while there are a few modern additions, dishes are kept to classic Portuguese – the type you would have in a typical Portuguese household – with a few twists along the way. Steven graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and started the takeout side of things. He became the chef here six years ago, with Carlos still working the grill. There’s no rotisserie here. Chicken is done the “authentic way,” John-Michael says – butterflied over a rotating horizontal charcoal grill. The classic BBQ sauce that completes the meal is an old family recipe. Whole fish come in fresh on ice, never frozen, and are served within five days or less from the date of shipping from Portugal. Meat is also brought in fresh from local Portuguese butcher, Nosso Talho, who John-Michael says, “is the best.” As for the cost? “We don’t mind spending more on meat. It’s what keeps you coming back.” All meat is cooked on a stone grill that infuses it with a deep smokiness, similar to charcoal. Martins also specialize in oven-roasted pig – cooked in a large Portuguese oven at 257 Fahrenheit for three hours. Made with a special garlic sauce that’s cooked right on the meat, it’s extremely popular – 55 whole pigs are sold in a week. They’re also one of the few restaurants that don’t require you to place your order for a half ($75) or whole pig ($140) 24-48 hours in advance.

Churrasqueira & Grill House

The takeout side offers 20 items that you can customize to suit your group size – from one person up to 45 people – and offers a wide selection of pan-fried, barbecued and oven-roasted dishes. From traditional seafood dishes of Bacalhau Da D'Avo (Baked Cod Fish with Cream) and Fried Pork Bits with Clam Carne de Porco Alentejana, to meaty mains of Rack of Ribs ($25 – must be ordered one hour in advance) and steaks (8 oz. Steak with Fries and Egg $16; 10 oz. House Steak with Fries $18), there’s a dizzying array of homemade fare to choose from. You’ll often find goat and lamb as well, a  Portuguese staple during the Easter holidays. Lighter fare of fresh grilled fish is also available including Sea Bass ($16) and Sea Bream ($16) and their iconic BBQ chicken (whole $12, half $6) that’s also available as dinners with two sides (half $12 and quarter $9-$13). Want to stay and eat? There are 50 seats on this side, and the casual room is outfitted with a small bar, so grab a beer or glass of wine with your meal. A second location is coming soon, so stay tuned.

Martins Sala

The finer dining room on the other side of the building offers a classic Portuguese menu with over 60 items, and an extensive wine list, including their own wine brand of house red and white. The Martins family also import their own extra virgin oil from Portugal, available at the table and for purchase. Seafood and steak are the heavy hitters here, but there are many traditional dishes not to be overlooked, including: Chouriço à Bombeiro ($8), a grilled, smoked Portuguese sausage, set afire in Aguardente, a Portuguese grape brandy; Bacalhau à Brás ($24), featuring shredded salt cod blended with cut fries and scrambled egg; and Costeleta de Vitela ($29), seared veal chop bone served with potato wedges and cornbread stuffing. A fresh fish bar allows you to choose your selection straight from the display case, including halibut, grouper and Chilean sea bass. Seafood, such as lobster, crab, shrimp, octopus, mussel and calms, is also on offer. No matter what you order, you should probably expect to take some home, as portions are American size. The 140-seat dining room offers the same convivial atmosphere as a resort or wedding hall – from large groups of families and friends celebrating birthdays and other occasions to smaller gatherings of co-workers and even young couples out on a date. Come summertime, the festivities move outside to the Cabana Bar, where an additional 100 seats are available on the patio.

---- Whether you choose to dine at Sala or get something to go from the Grill, one thing’s for sure: you will soon feel part of the extended Martins family, who are always on site ready to greet you with their homemade, time-honoured fare. Martins Churrasqueira & Grill House is open seven days a week. Check out our Facebook page for more photos.

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