We’ve said it before and we’ll probably have to repeat it until Donald Trump or some other crazy jackass blows us all to smithereens, but nearly none of Lisbon’s vegetarian restaurants could compete with places like “Nava Buddha” that don’t try to be anything other than themselves instead of having a nutritionist sucking the life out of their menu. The great thing about “Nava Buddha” is that next to some spicy meat dishes, there are a whole bunch of vegetarian options that do take, say, flavor, spices, textures and fresh vegetables in consideration, such as the pretty amazing red curry with crunchy onions and soft aubergines.
“Nava Buddha” is a Thai-fusion restaurant which deals in simple food but is miles away from the standard or bland stuff you might have come to expect from Asian-styled restaurants in Lisbon. As a starter, the chicken coconut soup (Tom kha kai) is a definite highlight and almost a complete meal on its own, with some fluffy rice on the side. The citrus infused, flowery flavors of the lemongrass and lime leaves in combination with a beautifully balanced coconut broth tick so many right boxes, it’s hard not to smile as you make your way to the deep end of the bowl.
Just as indulgent is the rice noodle chicken Singapore style which has many layers of flavors and texture, including a great crunch delivered by peanuts. Just as tempting is the seriously crispy oyster chicken which might be one of the best chicken dishes we’ve come across, like, ever. The way the deep-fried coating gives way to juicy chicken meat with persistent flavors of honey and the umami-heavy oyster sauce throughout is deeply satisfying and warrants multiple return visits. And then we haven’t even mentioned the comforting beef noodle soup. Watch out though because there are tiny rockets in the form of small pieces of bird’s eye chili ready to go all berzerk in your mouth if you make the mistake of biting on one.
There’s a point to be made here: restaurants like “Nava Buddha” or “Kababayan” offer big, Asian-inspired flavors in spaces which aren’t necessarily the most appealing or cozy but food wise are miles away from the majority of Lisbon’s standard Asian restaurants (mostly Chinese or Indian) which are low on actual spice or flavor and high on MSG and bad quality meat. There’s no challenging combinations, no fancy cheffing nor is there a well-thought out concept in places like “Nava Buddha”. The service is standard, functional, sympathetic and never gets in the way of anything.
It’s basically miles away from the culinary snobbism or elitism which can make Lisbon sometimes feel like a culinary casino. If you’re in the mood for just some uncomplicated food in an unassuming, low-key restaurant that will settle a hungry stomach without making any massive financial sacrifices, the simple, clean flavors of “Nava Buddha” are a safe bet.
Opening hours: Tues-Sat: 12h00-17h00; Tues-Sat: 19h00-23h00; Closed on Sundays.
Address: Rua Presidente Arriaga, 55, Lapa-Estrela, Lisboa
Phone Number: +351 920 503 968