Time Out says
Sometimes, the oldies are just what you need. That’s the case at Portofino, where everything seems to have come from a time long ago. The (upstairs) dining area is embellished with framings of Italian landscapes, the flooring a comforting wood, the hotel-style chairs stiff and heavy, and the music on a perpetual loop of your dad’s mixed tape of love songs.
Even the menu design takes a nostalgic turn with dish entries printed over photos of rolling pins and flour-dusted counters. Suitably, both the food and its presentation sustain Portofino’s retro style. Amid so many Bangsar restaurants trying so hard without ever getting anywhere, Portofino is a little charmer with its heart in the right place.
I start with the caprese salad (RM28) – a classic that’s been over-primped far too often in our city. This version – I’m happy to report – is well worth a mention. The tomatoes – although not of the sweetest variety – are juicy and on the firm side, the mozzarella both perky and milky, and the pesto blob is potent in its fragrance of fresh basil. Through it all, the saltiness from the Parmesan only but teases.
However, the baked onion soup (RM16) – the chef’s recommended starter – is far too oily, gloopy and sweet. As much as I wouldn’t opt for the soup again, I would a hundred times for what comes next – spinach and ricotta ravioli (RM36). The paper-thin pasta is stuffed with a decadent ricotta mix speckled with chopped spinach. The basil and tomato sauce draped around each pasta petal is heavy in oregano and is the zippy tangerine shade of Indian butter chicken. I lap it up.
Continuing the string of excellent tomato-based dishes, the spaghetti Portofino (RM38) is a dish for the tired soul. The house-made pasta comes bathed in a light fish stock, and the shellfish, clanging against each other, is abundant. My only complaint is the doneness of the pasta – its limpness doesn’t carry the sauce very well, and its weak bite is reminiscent of mi kuning. Online reviews suggest that an al dente texture can be requested for, but I wish for it to be the default pasta setting.
The crunchy almond semifreddo (RM18) wraps the meal up in a bow. It’s neither creamy nor smooth, but instead, plays on textures with candied nuts stirred through the semi-frozen custard. It’s not a glitzy pud that’ll earn itself a place on Instagram, the kind where dancing threads of sugar are carefully balanced on gold leafflecked fondants. But hey, I’d much rather spend a Sunday night eating dessert that’s so brazenly unfashionable than one that piles on the theatrics. And deep, deep down, I know you would too.