Sherman's Food Adventures: Portobello


11 years ago, we dined at the Broadway location of Portobello.  Now, we have noticed that it had moved into the former spot of the Pear Tree on Hastings in Burnaby.  I filed that away in my mind so if we ever needed as place to grab some Italian eats, we would hit the place up.  Well, it was my mom's birthday and we didn't want to venture into Downtown, so yep, this was the place for us!

We ended up sharing a bunch of dishes starting with some starters including the Caesar Salad and the Burrata.  Dressed in a house-made dressing, the Caesar salad was fairly mild in flavour despite the rich anchovy colour.  It was plenty creamy with some aromatics and fresh crunch from the romaine.  Soft and creamy, there was a good amount of burrata atop the dressed arugula and fresh cherry tomatoes.

Onto our pasta course, we ordered 3 of them.  The most simple of the bunch was the Fusilli con Polpette.  This featured 2 humungous house-made ground prime rib meatballs sitting in a tomato sauce with shaved parmigiano.  There was enough filler to prevent the meat from being dense, yet at the same time, the beef texture was still prevalent.  The tomato sauce was bright and tangy, yet was a bit one-note.  The shaved parm did help in this regard.  As for the fusilli, it was al dente.

Our favourite pasta of the bunch was not really a pasta, but a risotto.  The Risotto di Mare was a large portion of aborio rice, prawns and halibut.  We thought the rice was perfectly prepared as it was cooked through while still retaining a bite.  The combination of white wine, butter and cream was on point where it made the risotto rich without being too heavy.  Beyond the on point seasoning, the natural sweetness and brininess of the halibut and prawns came through in the background.

We also had the Agnolotti di Ricotta in a rose sauce.  These were not made in-house, but rather imported from Italy.  Well, these were legit as the thin pasta was firm, yet still tender to the bite.  Inside, the creamy ricotto and spinach were dry enough to not impact the integrity of the agnolotti.  Hence, they stayed together even after being cut in half and covered in sauce.  About that sauce, it was nicely balanced with a creamy and subtle tanginess.

So for our Primi, we also ordered 3 dishes including the Cioppino di Mare with clams, mussels, prawns, halibut and squid in a fish stock with white wine, garlic, fresh herbs and light tomato sauce.  This was quite the pleasant dish where the broth was definitely the star of the show.  It was naturally sweet and plenty "seafoody" with a spicy tanginess.  The seafood was perfectly cooked with buttery mussels and clams as well as delicately bouncy pieces of squid.

We really enjoyed the Ossobuco Classico where the large veal shank was so tender and rich with flavour.  It was fork-tender with the flavours of the wine and root vegetables coming through.  That was also evident with the braising liquid that melded perfectly with the al dente and creamy risotto on the side.  When combined, the richness of the risotto and the jus created a delicious bite.  Even better with a piece of the tender veal.

Staying with veal, we had the Piccata al Limone.  This featured several thin slices of veal that were lightly floured, sautéed in butter, white wine and lemon juice.  They were tender while mildly-seasoned.  The lemon did come through, offering up a certain brightness to break up the heaviness of the buttery.  I found the veggies on the side to be perfectly prepared where they retained a crunch.

For dessert, we had the Raspberry-Rhubarb Cobbler and the Tiramisu.  We felt the cobbler was quite good in terms of flavour and texture.  Nice tanginess and balanced sweetness from the fruit while the topping was not too thick nor dense.  As for the tiramisu, the mascarpone cream was light and just sweet enough.  Ladyfingers were properly soaked and we got that espresso hit.   So this meal at Portobello was exactly what we thought it would be.  It's not the sexiest Italian food in town, but is generally solid.   Love the new space in the ol' Pear Tree and the service was fantastic.

The Good:
- Generally solid food
- Excellent service
- Nice dining space

The Bad:
- Thought the tomato sauce pasta was a bit one-note


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