Having only been in Lisbon 3 days a classmate from language school suggested we head to a place he had been to. He told us in Lisbon there was such a thing as an ‘illegal Chinese Restaurant’ which is very prominent in the Martim Moniz area of Lisbon. He had been recommended it, been taken by a friend and been back a few times since. He recommended the experience and suggested we all visit together. I question this as in retrospect i’m not sure how illegal they really are. Though either way it was very funny at the time.
We went along after class with some of our classmates. You head off a side street from the central square in the interesting and diverse area of Martim Moniz. We rang a discreet looking doorbell, you are buzzed into an old residential flat block, you climb a few floors and knock on a non descriptive apartment door. A Chinese lady pokes her head out and slyly lets you in. I don’t imagine this would be the sort of place we would have found ourselves and you have to know it’s there or really look to find it. Inside you find essentially a large room that has been transformed into a little restaurant dining room. There are signs everywhere stating to not make too much noise.
We are one of 4 tables in the restaurant over the hour we were there. Though this “Underground Chinese Restaurant” trend is apparently in usual times very popular. The food was pretty standard Chinese, drinks were quite cheap and the Chinese lady working at the restaurant spent most of the time hanging out the window, looking down at the street below (perhaps to give the illusion she is on the lookout).
It was all very funny and we had a laugh. After questioning it with our language teacher the day after, the realisation is that the appeal was more in the thought that it could be an elicit secret restaurant, but that’s not necessary the truth. Perhaps for other people like us, having been told they are secret and illegal is what has made them a novelty and popular. Apparently there are hundreds like this throughout the area. A little google research reveals they don’t seem to be that secret or unknown about at all… even naming themselves as Illegal Chinese Restaurant quite blatantly online.
Worth a visit if you are in Lisbon looking for some Chinese food in an entertaining environment!