Curious about chef Cynthia Bitar’s latest ventures? As the creative force behind Nazira Catering, alongside her esteemed mother, Cynthia has embarked on an exciting new journey as partner and executive chef of Lisbon’s “Touta” restaurant. Drawing from her passion for culinary innovation and the rich tapestry of Portuguese culture, she seamlessly blends Lebanese tradition with Portuguese flavors to craft a truly memorable dining adventure.
What inspired you to launch Touta?
As a chef and individual, I thrive on embracing fresh challenges and engaging in exciting projects. Despite my extensive experience working on various European culinary endeavors, the prospect of establishing my own business in this vibrant region captivated me instantly. Having spent the past few years exploring Portugal, I developed a profound appreciation for its natural beauty, the warmth of its people, and the striking parallels it shares with Lebanon in terms of ingredients and traditions. Fueled by a passion for new challenges, I eagerly embarked on this venture, ready to create a unique culinary experience.
What is the symbolism behind its name?
Touta, my childhood nickname, intertwines with Ballouta, the Lebanese term for acorn. As a kid, my uncle used to play around and call me “touta touta el ballouta.” In Portuguese, ballouta translates to belotta, aligning closely with its pronunciation in Lebanese. Choosing Touta as our restaurant’s name and Ballouta as its logo reflects our desire for a personal and playful touch. These elements encapsulate an intimate culinary experience, where I weave my cherished memories and childhood into dishes resonating with the flavors of Portugal’s rich culinary scene.
What type of cuisine does Touta offer?
Our restaurant offers a ‘’cuisine libre’’. In a culinary context, it generally refers to a style of cooking that emphasizes creativity, flexibility, and freedom from strict culinary traditions. I often experiment with ingredients, techniques, and flavors to create unique and innovative dishes. ‘’cuisine libre’’ is about exploring new ideas and pushing the boundaries of traditional culinary norms. It celebrates the freedom to innovate and create without being confined to established culinary conventions. What truly matters to me is unwavering commitment to preserving the essence and authentic flavors of our Lebanese cuisine—I never compromise on that.
What are your recommended signature dishes and specialties at Touta?
Our menu boasts a selection of unique creations reflecting modern Lebanese cuisine. From the Fish Mloukhieh to the Blue Fin Tuna Kafta Tartar and the Calamari with Clams Moghrabieh, each dish tells a meaningful story. Don’t miss our hommos topped with homemade sujuk, the Raheb salad with makdous pesto, or the Mloukhieh paired with the catch of the day. Our fusion specialties like the Porco Preto B.B.Q combine Portuguese ingredients with Lebanese flair. And for dessert, indulge in the Arak Soufflé Glacé. Additionally, explore our curated cocktail menu featuring blends like the Freekeh Daiquiri and the Manouchtini.
What do customers commonly appreciate about the restaurant, based on reviews?
In Touta Ballouta, we’re deeply committed to providing not just a meal, but an exceptional dining experience. Based on the feedback we’ve received from our valued patrons, it’s evident that they appreciate several key aspects of our establishment.
First and foremost, many of our guests have expressed delight in the overall experience. They’ve described their visit as more than just a dinner; it’s been characterized as an enriching culinary journey. This speaks to our dedication to crafting not just dishes, but memorable moments for our guests.
Our menu, which harmoniously blends modern and traditional flavors, has garnered praise for its innovation and quality. Guests have highlighted the unique fusion of Lebanese cuisine with contemporary twists, which has left a lasting impression on their palates.
Additionally, our commitment to excellence extends beyond the plate. Guests have consistently praised our beautiful space and exemplary service, noting the attention to detail that contributes to a truly remarkable dining atmosphere.
Furthermore, it’s heartening to hear that our passion for Lebanese cuisine shines through in every aspect of our restaurant. Guests appreciate the authenticity of our dishes while also celebrating the creative touches that set us apart.
Ultimately, the reviews we’ve received reaffirm our commitment to providing a culinary experience that transcends expectations. We’re grateful for the opportunity to share our love for Lebanese cuisine with our guests, and we look forward to continuing to exceed their expectations in the future.