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In the restaurant industry, second chances are rare. The Portuguese restaurant Alfama got one, re-opening in East Midtown in late May after losing their lease in the West Village two years ago.

They’ve done a handsome job of building out their new digs. It’s a bright, comfortable (if casual) space. The small dining room has a West Village-y intimacy, despite a location where restaurateurs tend to build big.

But it’s not on a block that gets a lot of foot traffic, so they’ll need good word-of-mouth to build a following. The restaurant wasn’t busy on a Friday evening, but as it was Fourth of July weekend, I wouldn’t draw any conclusions.

The chef, Francisco Rosa (same as at the previous location), has installed a menu with a mixture of crowd-pleasers and more challenging dishes. No one at my table was willing to share the rabbit meatballs, despite my assurance that they’d taste “just like chicken.” Chicken gizzards anyone?

It’s not terribly expensive: dinner for three was about $120 before beverages, tax, and tip. Appetizers are $4–16 each, entrées $21–32, sides $4–7, desserts $7–10.

The amuse bouche (below left) was a bit of spicy tuna tartare on a spoon.

Both appetizers were very good. Flambéed Portuguese Sausage ($10; above right) arrived literally on fire: the server advised us to let it burn for a couple of minutes before blowing out the flame. We also liked Pulled Lamb crostini ($14; below left).

Grilled Sardines ($19; above right), an announced special, made a good simple entrée.

Mariscada Alfama ($32; above left), or seafood stew, is probably the most complex of the entrées. Red Snapper ($25; above right) was of the simpler variety, although I especially liked the crisped skin, along with the tender fish inside.

Abade de Priscos ($10; above left) is one of the stranger desserts I have had in quite some time, described as: “A Mystifyingly dense Custard of Egg Yolks, Sugar, Port Wine and Prosciutto, served with a Prosciutto tuille and Lemon Sorbet.” Prosciutto makes just as bad a dessert ingredient as it sounds. I left this creation half-uneaten. Pasteis de Nata ($9; above right), or traditional Portuguese custard tarts with cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar, were a much better bet.

The restaurant had gained its liquor license only a day or two before our visit, and there were only a handful of bottles on the wine list. The one we had ($39) was unmemorable, but fine enough at the price. In any case, more are coming, and according to The Times, the selection will be heavily Portuguese, as it should be.

It’s nice to see another solid option in a cuisine that is under-represented in Manhattan. To keep the rent affordable, the owners had to settle for a mediocre block. Here’s hoping that diners take a few extra steps out of their way, to give Alfama a try.

Alfama (214 E. 52nd Street, east of Third Avenue, East Midtown)

Food: *½
Service: *½
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½

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