Portico – Comparing the Signature Menu, SG50 Menu and Daily Set Lunch Menu

26 07 2015

It’s places like Portico that excite the food blogger in me. Rather than blogging about an establishment in town that is already well-covered, food bloggers’ value add to the general public in my view comes from highlighting restaurants that are a little less well known, possibly new establishments or restaurants that are further away from the city centre. Portico fits the bill perfectly…

Housed in the former premises of Hosted on the Patio inside an estate of low-rise commercial buildings, Portico isn’t the most conspicuous of places but is still accessible by public transport (10mins walk from  Labrador Park MRT station), a sufficiently long walk to whip up an appetite.

One of the things I like best about Portico is the laid-back casual ambience, complemented by a warm service staff. It really felt like I was dining at a friend’s place, where I was free to just walk about the spacious restaurant, snapping pictures without feeling like I was disrupting anyone’s meal. With a seating capacity of 100 pax, it’s a perfect venue for large gatherings and celebrating special occasions.

Apart from the daily set lunch ($38++ for 3-courses, also avail on Saturdays), there are two other sets available during lunch time as well; a 5-Course SG50 lunch set priced at $50++ and a 4-course Signature Set Menu priced at $58++.

Alternatively, the ala-carte menu is also reasonably priced with mains starting from $26++ and up. This is made more attractive with an ongoing promotion for diners with the American Express Platinum card , where each order of a main course comes with a complimentary dessert, subject to term and conditions.

As it was our first time here, our party of 4 decided to try the different lunch sets for comparison.

SG50 Set Menu ($50++ for 5 Courses)

While Portico primarily serves European cuisine, the SG50 set menu showcases a fusion of Western dishes with Singapore cuisine influences. For example, our first course comprised of Bak Kut Teh Terrine and Chili Crab Brioche. Was a bit let down by the gelatinous terrine as the Bak Kut Teh flavor was a bit too subtle, especially evident given that the terrine was served cold which masked the flavours even more. We did enjoy the Chili Crab Brioche however, which was reminiscent of a Chili Crab over a Fried Mantou.

The second course was an upscale “Rojak”. The vegetables and fruits came in a vacuum pack which we poured into the bowl of Shrimp Paste Espuma, Peanuts and Crispy Bean Puffs (tau pok). The tau pok was intentionally burnt to achieve a charred smokey flavor that complemented the shrimp paste well but feedback from around the table was mixed regarding the extent of the charring.

Next up was a Smoked Pork Wanton Soup, comprising a Tortellini of Smoke Pork, Konjac noodles and Pork Bone Broth. While many of us might not be familiar with Konjac noodles (one that currently comes to mind is the one used in the Spicy Salivating Chicken Dish at Xi Yan @ Shaw Lido / Craig Road), most should be familiar with Konnyaku Jelly that we would probably have had in our childhood. I like that the texture of Konjac noodles comes across as a little more springy relative to the usual flour-based noodles but taste-wise, this definitely wasn’t as inspiring as the previous two dishes.

For main, we were served a Laksa Risotto, which turned out to be one of my favourite dishes for this lunch. The Risotto was made using 3 different “grains”; Quinoa, Orzo (a short rice-shaped pasta) and Barley, which was served with a side of Laksa Leaf Pesto, Coconut Foam, a Pulau Ubin Sea Bass Fishcake and a perfectly grilled Tiger Prawn. When everything was mixed together, no doubt it reminded me of the rich laksa gravy from Katong. The bean puff (tau pok) was awesome too, much on the crispy side, providing nice juxtaposition texturally.

Last up was the Teh-ramisu. You heard that right, a tiramisu-inspired dish that uses Teh Terik infused Sponge and a Milk Tea Mascarpone Mousse, topped with caramel pearls. It scores well on the novelty factor and S mentioned it had a nice hint of earl grey or ginger as well.

Overall, two thumbs up for the SG50 Set Menu. Creative and very tasty.

Signature Set Menu ($58++ for 4-courses)

The signature menu as its name suggests, offers what’s best on the menu and a quick way for first-time diners to get introduced to Portico. A well-blended smooth mushroom soup was served first, together with a parmesan pastry tuile. I thought it was pleasant but not good enough to be listed as a signature item.

The second course was a Salad of Vine-ripened Tomatoes with Jamon Serrano, Organic Quinoa and Honey Melon Dressing. Again, I found it pleasant but nothing distinct enough to make it stand out from similar salads at other restaurants.

For main, we had the choice between the Chicken Confit and a Pan-seared Pulau Ubin Sea Bass. We opted for the latter and it was served with Roasted Potatoes and Herbed Beurre Blanc sauce (aka French White Butter Sauce). One of the betters ones I have had of late, the skin of the Sea Bass was seared to a nice crisp, the fish meat moist and not overcooked and the fish was really fresh. The Sea Bass used here is shipped daily from a fishery in Pulau Ubin and arrives within two hours of the fish being caught, hence the freshness. This we felt, definitely earned its spot in the signature menu.

Dessert came in the form of a Deconstructed Blackforest, using 70% Varlhona Dark Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Soil, Cherry Coulis and Caramel Ice Cream. For dramatic effect, some popping candy was also added which gave the popping echos to the surprise of diners. This was insanely good in my humble opinion, something worth popping by for even without the full meal.

Daily Set Lunch Menu ($38++ for 3-courses)

The daily set lunch menu changes frequently but during this occasion, paled in comparison to both the SG50 and Signature Menu Sets.

From a choice of 4 Salads, we chose one that had Berries, Quinoa and Avocado. A really refreshing starter with the tang form the Raspberries and Pomegranate doing a great job in stimulating our salivary glands.

For mains, we had a choice of the Roasted Duck Leg or the 3 Grain Laksa Risotto. We chose the former since the Laksa Risotto was a compulsory dish in the SG50 menu. As the duck was roasted rather than fried, the meat remained sufficiently moist at the expense of a more crispy duck skin one would normally find in a duck confit dish. However, a rather meh dish overall.

The Cake of the Day was a Blueberry Lavender Cake. This was pretty disappointing as the cake was rather dry and too dense for my liking.

As it was R’s belated birthday, we also ordered a slice of Rainbow Cake, which fared slightly better but honestly, just stick with the Deconstructed Blackforest…

Aesthetically-pleasing and creative dishes that taste good to boot, a laid-back charming setting while staying friendly on the pocket. That pretty much sums up our experience at Portico.

PS: There is an Ultimate Truffle Fries (800g of Truffle Fries with white truffle salt, truffle shavings, shaved aged gruyere and edible golf leaf) on the menu…I got my eye on you.

Portico

Address: 991B Alexandra Road, Singapore 119970

Tel: +65 6276 7337

Website: http://portico.sg/

 





Alkaff Mansion – Raina’s 21st Birthday Dinner

28 07 2012

I always tell people that a 21st birthday is the 3rd most important day of anyone’s life, the first 2 being the wedding and funeral. It’s a day where you allow yourself to splurge, not for the sake of showing off that your 21st is better than everyone elses, but for acknowledging the closest people in your life for being there. Mine was a rather humble affair 2 years back. I simply catered food at my place and invited my closest 30 odd friends and family down, the people who have have the greatest influence on what I have become today.

Alkaff Mansion 2nd Floor

Whenever I get invited to a birthday party, I feel really honoured. It’s like an award that recognizes the value and contribution you have made to someone else’s life. So unless it’s a life or death situation I’m dealing with at that moment, I try never to miss such events. It was partially due to this reason that I decided to fly back from Seoul a week earlier than initially planned to attend Raina’s 21st, one of the best friends I have made during my university years.

Before deciding upon the venue of her 21st, Raina and her siblings had visited Alkaff to qc their menu and subsequently shortlisted their favourite items into a 4-course set dinner menu. Pretty much foodies themselves, I was pretty confident that the food was going to be great.

Arriving unfashionably on time, only a handful of the guests had arrived so I proceeded to the 2nd floor for aperitifs at the bar while waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive. After all, few can say no when there’s a lovely flow of prosecco on the birthday girl’s tab. Driving’s a pain sometimes, no one told me there was going to be booze. But apart from me ranting about the inability to sponge off to my heart’s content, I thought the bar lounge had classy vibes with soft music playing in the background, unhindering private conversations.

Crispy Duck Foie Gras with Caramelized Onions, Beer and Cherry Relish ($28++). Although there is supposedly a layer of polenta flour that is supposed to add a crisp exterior to the foie gras, the foie gras I got wasn’t much crispier than what I’d normally have in other french establishments. On the plus side, the liver sure was fatty and that’s where the tart cherry relish comes in, to tone down the oiliness. The brioche and caramelized onions were pretty standard but I felt the brioche could be better if it were a tad more buttery and airy but overall, a well-executed dish.

I felt that the Ravioli with Porcini Mushrooms Sauce scented with White Truffle ($26++) was nicely done and I especially adored the mushroom sauce. Fervent truffle fans might point out that the earthly truffle aroma was lacking but I was very content with what was served.

I was very utterly disappointed with the Braised Veal Shank Osso Buco in White Wine Served with Mash Potato Puree. The meat was rubbery while the tomato based sauce was too tangy and didn’t quite complement the veal. The only saving grace was the meat wasn’t gamey.

Though not mind-blowing, I preferred the Pan-seared Cod Fish with Rosemary Potato & Aged Balsamic over the Osso Buco. The fish was very fresh but the flavour came across as a little too nude and bland for my liking. Then again, it might appeal to people who love their fish unadulterated by overly flavourful marinades and gravies.

 

Cake for princesses

 

Birthday girl and family

 

For dessert, we were served the Traditional Blackberry Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream. I thought the tart was decent and tasted better on its own than with the accompanying ice cream, which lacked richness and the delightful fragrance of vanilla (yup didn’t spot the black vanilla beans). Raina’s 2 tier birthday Chocolate Rum cake was from Perla. Not too shabby but the glaze was a little too sweet for me.

Overall, I believe Alkaff Mansion delivers something special. The ambience alone is worth the trip and as long as you stick to the tried and tested items, you will be in for a memorable meal. So do keep it at the back of your head if you are planning a meal to pop any important questions, or celebrate special occasions.

Alkaff Mansion

10 Telok Blangah Green

Tel: +65 6510 3068





Hosted on the Patio – Another Place Great for Dates and Birthdays

15 01 2012

Just last week, a bunch of us celebrated MZ’s 21st birthday at Hosted on the Patio. I realize now that I should have taken some pics of the setting and surroundings because it’s really an ideal place to host birthdays and go on dates. Actually, almost all the customers here that night were couples yearning a relaxed quiet evening out. The ambience is a mix of Timbre @ Old School and Artichoke Cafe (along Queens Street), and a live band played for the enjoyment of al fresco diners (it was a Saturday if I’m not mistaken).

Food was generally decent (though not astounding) but service was really sluggish and we waited around half an hour for the food, probably because the kitchen isn’t equipped to handle large orders at one go.

As an appetizer, the Atlantic Crab Salad ($16++) comes highly recommended. Chunks of briny crab meat is tossed with crisp salad, cherry tomatoes and sweet orange citrus segments, all dressed in a tangy tomato syrup. The myriad of light flavours works for the dish and the plethora of colours is appealing. The serving is generous and can be shared between 3 people.

I had high expectations for the Honey Bourbon Ribs ($26++) but was left slightly disappointed as the beef rib was not as succulent as what I remember it to be as when I had it in other places (I fondly recall my first brush with beef ribs at Brewerkz).  On the other hand, the marinate was ok and the thick cut fries were awesome.

My favourite main tonight was definitely the Smoked Duck Linguini ($24++). While the sauce is supposed to be a fragrant rose sauce (I’m thinking rose as in the wine and not the flower), only trace amounts of rose was used and the sauce was more or less a blend between cream and tomato base, which worked out just as well, appealing to people who find the usual tomato base too tangy and the usual cream base too cloying. The Wood Smoked French Duck Breast, Asparagus and Mushrooms is nestled on firm Linguini Pasta (just how I like it), and plays along with the pasta’s gentle symphony.

I have had better Capellini Nero ($28++), better known as Squid Ink Angel Hair Pasta elsewhere. The angel hair pasta tossed with fresh prawns, crab meat and roasted tomatoes come across as a little dry for my liking though I would say the flavours are intact.

Didn’t manage to try the other Mains such as the Beef Scallopini ($28++) which is described as “Tender Escalopes of Beef Tenderloin pan seared and deglazed with Marsala and Cream with Roasted Potatoes and Porcini Mushrooms” on the menu.

Chilean Cod & Slipper Lobster ($32++). Described as “Duo of Grilled Cod and Slipper Lobster accompanied with Tomato Jam and Onion Glaze in a crisp white wine butter sauce with vegetables on the side”.

Braised Lamb Shank ($24++). Described as “Slow Braised Lamb Fore Shank nestled on Mint Scent Risotto, draped with Roasted Onion, Tomato Red Wine Sauce and drizzled with Lemon Parsley Oil” on the menu. MZ thought it was just so-so.

Given the reasonable prices of the Mains here, the Desserts seem relatively overpriced, unjustified by its run of the mill standards. The Molten Dark Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($14++) is pleasantly average.

I didn’t like the Green Tea Creme Brulee with Almond Biscotti ($12++) as I found the creme brulee too dense that it feels more oversteamed eggy than creamy. I also felt that the caramel was overseared, resulting in an unpleasant overly charred taste.

Hosted on the Patio does some dishes well but in general, the main draw of this place is simply the laid back ambience not available in the heart of town.

Bon Appetit!

Hosted on the Patio

991B Alexandra Road, #01-10

Tel: +65 6276 7337








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