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Mateus: Portuguese picnic promises plenty for palate

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Spring has sprung and it's just the right time for a barbecue picnic. The picnic offering is delightful. Heaped in an aluminum roasting pan is an array of barbecued meats - all with a touch of smoky flavor: thin pork chops, thin beef short rib slices, a thick piece of shell steak, two short Italian sausages, two slices of Portuguese sausage, a half chicken, cut up. All are nicely seasoned and so good hot, warm or cold.

On one side is rice, on the other plentiful potato - and that's how you know Mateus is Portuguese. Orange carrot slices and tiny black olives and a green hot pepper add a proper dash of color. A tossed green salad for two or three (and possibly four) plus dressing (separate) is included in a flag-decorated bag with sliced bread in another. Say, "Picnic" and paper plates and plastic cutlery and napkins are packed.

A lobster dinner is another great picnic possibility: A 1-1/2 pound lobster with potatoes or rice and vegetables. And others include shell steak or grilled chicken breast with shrimp and salad, potatoes or rice and a vegetable. Or try a seafood paella including lobster, clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops and calamari with rice and green peas. And you don't have to go picnicking - you can savor them right at Mateus.

In 1991 Mateus opened with a country-style look. Now it is newly renovated with plastic siding - modern, with a dramatic brass railing grid to hold glasses on high above the bar.

After work, macho men line up along the bar, some with inch-wide black mustaches. There's a table for two there if you're interested in local color. We were.

The uncluttered dining room is pink and white and 8 p.m. is when locals gather to dine.

Mateus's menu goes on page after page. It was shrimp cocktail for me, tempted by a price of $5.50. Four excellent shrimp were draped over a sherbet glass blanketed in lettuce (very attractive!) with a bullseye of cocktail sauce. My companion's calamari were tender and the crusting delicious and "peelable."

Perhaps it was the sack of fresh fish being delivered that made my dining companion decide on a broiled seafood plate entree with firm, wonderful scallops, shrimp and fillet of sole. The accompanying home fries were silver-dollar-sized discs of golden deliciousness.

Bacalhau, Portugal's codfish. The word fascinates me - perhaps that's why I always gravitate to it. At Mateus it is superb - smoky, ultra moist, meaty flakes. Potatoes, boiled, makes a perfect pairing. along with corn, peas, carrots and cauliflower.

Let me hasten to add that an attractive, crispy green salad with sweet white onion slivers and tiny olives preceded it.

Dessert time. Our waitress suggests, "Come. Choose it from the revolving, glass case in the dining room." The selection is impressive with temptations galore: strawberry-filled layer cake, inch-high cheese cake, fruit-topped puff pastry tart, flan (port flavored), black and white layered mousse cake, and a buxom sherbet with a custardy wafer cream (that's for me) - crumbs on the bottom, a frothy topping, and creamy in between.

Over espresso my companion reminisced about being an 18-year-old bride in Lisbon, of the tile sidewalks, and having her first Thanksgiving away from home. Mateus (and Mateus himself does most of the cooking) fills the bill for picnics or a taste of nostalgia, Portuguese style.

The Bottom Line

Portuguese restaurant and bar. Features barbecue picnic for two family style. Good Northern Portuguese cuisine. Huge dolci selection. Newly renovated. Pink and white dining room. English speaking service.

Mateus

222-07 Jamaica Ave.

Queens Village

718-464-4522

Chef's Choice

Portuguese sausage (chourico caseiro)...$5.95

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce (camara creinduo)...$9.95

Pork with Clams (carnea alentejana)...$10.95

B.B.Q. Chicken (frango de churrasco)...$8.95

Codfish - As You Like It (Bacalhau ao Seu Gosto)...$12.95

Wafer Cream ("Maria" Portuguese cookies)

Flan (port wine flavored)

Cuisine: Northern Portuguese

Setting: Newly renovated (modern). Soccer trophies

Service: English speaking

Hours : L & D 7 days

Parking: Street

Location: W of Cross Island Pkwy

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Private parties: To 100. (Party room for 60)

Off-premise catering: Yes

Takeout: Yes

Children: Own menu

Noise level: Fri & Sat

Handicap access: Yes

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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