I suppose it's significant that Lisbon, a Portuguese restaurant, had been open for a full year before I even heard about it.
That may be partly due to its International Drive location. Not that I eschew or ignore restaurants in the tourist sector. On the contrary, I like knowing about the good ones -- and there are some good ones -- so that I can advise and make recommendations on where to dine (and where not to) for visitors and locals alike.
But it's been a historical fact, unfortunately, that many businesses, including restaurants, choose I-Drive as a location because of a steady stream potential clientele. For some, that means they seldom have to market themselves to keep the seats full -- there's always another proverbial busload just around the corner.
For others, even more unfortunately, it also means that there is no need to be overly concerned about the quality of food and service.
I don't think that's the case with Lisbon. The quality of the food and service were not unacceptable when I visited last month. But there also wasn't much about the experience that would make me want to send locals or even tourists there instead of one of the other recommendable restaurants, including some right there in the I-Drive 360 complex or a short walk away.
The exception would be the person who just can't get enough bacalhau in his or her diet. Lisbon arguably has the largest selection of salt cod dishes in Central Florida.
I personally have not met such a person, but if you happen to be one, you might want to try the Bacalhau com Natas, a casserole of the shredded dish with fried potatoes baked in a cream sauce. Mild flavors were pleasant, but I didn't think it warranted its $17.95 fee.
If that one doesn't suit you, consider the Bacalhau a Zé do Pipo; Bacalhau a Brás de Sá; Bacalhau Assado com Batatas Ao Murro; Bacalhau na Telha; Bacalhau Cozido; or Bacalhau a Lagareiro.
There's also a Pastéis de Bacalhau appetizer of salt cod cake, but instead I chose a starter of Chouriço a Casa, a fairly mundane -- both in taste and presentation -- dish of sausage in wine.
My companion and I also had the Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato, top neck clams sauteed in white wine. A bit chewy but the broth was nice.
I wish I could say there was something extraordinary about the atmosphere or the service. The dining room is sparse, with white cloths under white butcher paper and plateware glued to one wall. Service merely OK. Our server was not Portuguese, but she spoke the language.
Despite its location under the Coca-Cola Eye, Lisbon is easy to miss because it's around the corner from the main plaza. So you have to be lost or looking for it specifically to come across it.
Bacalhau fans can simply follow their nose.
Lisbon is at 8441 International Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-757-0500.