Vila Joya gives us a taste of the fine dining scene in Portugal, as Chef Dieter Koschina uses local ingredients, prepared with the best of European influences.
It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to dine at one of the best restaurants in the world -- especially a restaurant that boasts two Michelin stars. So when we decided to visit Portugal, the restaurant at Vila Joya, on the Algarve Coast, was quickly added to our foodie bucket list. With a menu that changes daily and an all star team that constantly comes up with new and very creative ideas, we knew a meal here would be unique and unforgettable. So when we were told our reservations were confirmed, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to see a true culinary artist, perform.
Nestled on a terrace overlooking the beach is Vila Joya's eponymous gourmet restaurant. Led by Chef Dieter Koschina and his charming right-hand man, Matteo Ferrantino, Vila Joya has a reputation for being the best -- and with extremely limited seating, and a long wait list for reservations, getting in can be tough. Luckily if you’re a guest at Vila Joya, they will make you a priority and do everything they can to to get you in.
Our table was on the edge of the terrace overlooking the ocean and the warm glow from candles was just the right amount of light to see each dish. The crowd was stylish, the ambiance was elegant and the setting was perfectly refined. The team takes every precaution to know their guests and make them feel comfortable, so expect to be greeted by name and carefully watched over.
I can’t describe the “kind” of food we had, or really even what the dishes were, but I can tell you this; local ingredients are the star and wonderfully infused with European cooking techniques and influences by Koschina. You can expect dishes like guinea fowl stuffed with black truffles and artichokes, or bacalhau – dried and salted cod – confited and paired with beetroot coulis and yogurt.
Each dish comes out beautifully presented with the perfect amount of “show,” so that your food is still identifiable yet artistically put together. Our waiters gave careful descriptions of what we were eating and every dish, every little surprise, was better than the last. I definitely had my favorites, but truthfully - everything was incredible.
And it wasn't just the food that won us over, it was also the wine. Our sommelier was exceptionally knowledgable about Portuguese wines, and expertly paired each course with the best wine. Although you can order off the wine menu yourself, we'd suggest that you go with the pairing. You’ll discover wines you might not have considered and let’s face it, navigating Portuguese wines can be a bit difficult, as they don't like to categorize by varietals. So unless you’re a sommelier yourself and understand how to properly pair wine, leave it to the professionals. When else are you going to have an experience like this?
The menu does change daily, so you will never have the same thing twice and really why would you? How he does it? I don't know? But it works. It’s art and we can’t wait to come back.
A word of advice... Even though the vibe at Vila Joya Hotel is casual, the restaurant (surprisingly) is not. There is a very strict dress code, so although you may be enjoying the warm ocean breezes coming off the beach in a pair of shorts, don't even think about wearing them to the restaurant (even at lunch), as you will be turned away. We're not saying we agree with this policy (we don't), but there you have it.
How to Book a Reservation
Like we mentioned before, reservations are tough, so make sure to book well in advance, simply by visiting their website. If you are looking for a little getaway, or a perfect 2 night stop on your Portuguese vacation, staying at Vila Joya is definitely worth it (you can read all about our stay here) and hopefully will get you some priority when booking a reservation at the restaurant. For an truly unique experience you can always book the "chefs table" which is located inside the kitchen.
This is the type of restaurant where I would alter my plans to accommodate the reservation - it's that great. The team at Vila Joya Hotel and restaurant are extremely helpful and will do everything they can to get you in :)
To make a reservation visit the Vila Joya website: