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Asia on the plate

by Paulo Santos


Techniques and produce from various countries go into the menu at Avista Asia, a restaurant that takes you on a journey.


Can all of Asia fit into a dinner menu? Part of this great continent can! And it certainly does with Chef Rui Pinto's creations, at Avista Asia - part of the PortoBay group. This restaurant has the same name as its Mediterranean twin – Avista – but here the choice is pan-Asian.


Japan, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Taiwan, India and Mongolia all combine with Madeiran and other international produce, in a fusion of flavours that combines techniques from these countries with local island produce to give the cuisine a high degree of freshness and seasonality.


Madeira contributes fish, seasonal fruit, fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs. Seafood is sourced from elsewhere, such as lobster from the coast of Scotland which arrives every two days, or wagyu beef from Japan.


But it all starts with the visual impact. Avista Asia occupies the top floor of a late 19th century villa, part of a complex formed by the Mediterranean-inspired Avista restaurant and a bar, all within Les Suites at The Cliff Bay hotel.

It is located on the Estrada Monumental with a prime view over the sea and the bay of Funchal. The restaurant has an outdoor area and a terrace with Balinese trees, where you can take in the view and enjoy a drink.


We suggest a cocktail to start off with. There are non-alcoholic options, premium drinks or a signature cocktail, the Nikka Sour - this takes its name from the Japanese whiskey, Nikka, to which ginger, honey, pineapple and lemon juice are added. But there’s also Japanese gin and sake.


Avista Asia has a strong, but not exclusive, Japanese flavour. It’s not a sushi restaurant, although it is available on the menu in various forms, along with other Japanese specialities. Avista Asia offers a journey of flavours, with its à la carte dishes and tasting menus, consisting of three, five or seven items, the latter with a premium option.


All menus have a wine pairing option. But you can also choose from the wine list, where all Portuguese regions are available along with wines from other countries. There are wines by the glass, champagne and sparkling wine, and a section called ‘Wines outside the box’.


Whether you are pairing, ordering by the glass, or choosing a bottle, the wine service is personalised, as is the entire meal. Advice is provided, with as many explanations as the customer requires. Here, wine is part of the ritual, of taking your time and eating with pleasure.


Whatever dish you choose, the meal usually starts with steamed buns, spring onion, nori and tartare. From here, depending on the menu, there is room for the chef to get creative. Rui Pinto doesn't just play it safe. He works with the produce of the day, and this can bring impressive results.

For example: a violet prawn is served raw (nama), but in an emulsion of sea urchins, samphire, onion and lime pickle, and coriander. It's a starter full of freshness that paves the way for sushi, which is the chef's choice. Hence the name omakase (‘I’ll leave it up to you’, loosely translated).

Dumplings are always good at an Asian restaurant, and crab dumplings are on the Avista Asia menu.

Meat comes in the form of wagyu served free style, that is, gunkan, but also through another dish, Kagoshima Wagyu, named after the Japanese city. Another of the chef's specialities is blue lobster, served with satay sauce.

And then we come to dessert, where Rui Pinto brings together the entire dining experience in the suggestive 'From Funchal to Tokyo', a sweet made with passion fruit, mango, ginger and the Asian citrus fruit yuzu.

This is just one example of what a premium menu at Avista can look like, with a selection of white and red wines made from different grape varietals and regions, culminating in a glass of Madeira to wash down the dessert. The restaurant has more choices of food, not just set menus. However, all suggested dishes offer something in common - a journey to Asia.


You can experience all this in an urban setting, close to the sea, as you watch night fall over the city from one of the most best vantage points in Funchal.

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