by Amélia Ávila (’24) | October 11, 2021
In 2016, just a year after it opened, Adega became the first—and only—restaurant in San José to earn a Michelin star, one of the highest honors a restaurant can receive. Unfortunately, in 2017, the Michelin Guide dropped Adega from the official “Michelin Guide,” thus retracting its star. However, despite the pandemic’s devastation of restaurants worldwide, Adega emerged victorious and earned its star back in 2021. It now sits as the only restaurant in San José with this honor, with honorable mentions to Luna’s Mexican Kitchen and Bai Xing Jia Hunan Fusion.
Owned by Jessica and Carlos Carreira, Adega was opened in 2015 in the heart of East San José’s Little Portugal neighborhood. Adega is fine-dining style Portuguese cuisine concentrating on elevating traditional dishes. Portuguese cuisine, oftentimes with the nation’s proximity to the bountiful Atlantic Sea, has an incredible array of seafood dishes, and these are the meals that Adega intends to highlight. Adega adds its own flourish to a staple of Portugal, bacalhau (salted cod), with crispy potatoes and briny black olives, served with a creamy cod-based sauce. In addition to fish, Adega prepares an excellent carabineros (deep-sea scarlet-tinted prawn) known for its unique succulence brought out by the lemongrass and seaweed marinade. However, Adega doesn’t just focus on seafood; in fact, it modernizes the hearty Portuguese blood sausage morcela, prepared in a delectable puff pastry shell and served under a refreshing apple-celery sauce. Because Portuguese cuisine typically features seafood, shellfish, rice, and vegetables, this influences Adega’s dishes. One of their bestselling items, salada de polvo consists of cubed octopus meat with a salada mista (Portuguese for simple salad), served over a red pepper reduction.
However, that’s not to say that Adega has only cornered the market on Portuguese non-vegetarian dishes. On its new tasting menu, the restaurant welcomes any dietary restrictions or vegetarian accommodations to ensure everyone has the opportunity to experience the wonders of Portuguese cuisine. Since its Michelin star, Adega has garnered much praise and attention for its tasting menu, even from Saint Francis students. Talking about her experience at Adega, senior Amulya Aditham said especially of their dishes: “I really appreciated how they had a vegetarian tasting menu. That really opened opportunities for vegetarians to experience tasting menus in a way that isn’t typically offered.”
Additionally, Adega remains a dessert powerhouse with its concentration on popular Portuguese classics, thanks to pastry chef Jessica Carreira. A fan favorite from Portugal, her ovo is prepared with care at Adega, serving a modern rendition of what is an untouchable classic in Portugal. The dense, saccharine yolk sits in a syrupy-sweet nest of cinnamon and sugar, with a texture similar to spun sugar. Additionally, the ever popular flan is modernized and served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. These home-style desserts are served with contemporary flair, revolutionizing the presence of Portuguese cuisine in the Bay Area.
Because Adega is a gourmet restaurant, their prices are certainly more expensive than the average restaurant. Luckily for us, there is a way to enjoy the simple delicacies of Adega’s take on Portuguese cuisine more often. The Carreira family also owns two fairly new restaurants: Petiscos, a casual family-style location, and Pastelaria Adega, a bakery in Downtown San José. All these restaurants cross-pollinate: both Adega and Pestiscos serve freshly baked bread from Pastelaria.
All in all, Adega truly is a fine dining experience, one that showcases the rich diversity of Portuguese cuisine, from succulent seafood to hearty home-style dishes. Not only does Adega present a modern take of Portugal in our very own San José, but it also embraces and pays homage to its roots in traditional Portuguese cuisine.