Portico (meaning ‘porch’ in Italian) invites diners, friends and guests, into their home –home of Chef Leandros Stagogiannis (formerly from The Fat Duck, UK, and FIftyThree and St Pierre locally) and two owners, Alicia Lin and Sean Lai, who also own Pasarbella’s Cicely Kitchen and Le Patio respectively.
The ‘house’, surrounded by a lush garden setting bejewelled with plants and edible herbs, is an all-day dining café, restaurant and bar encompassing a cosy main dining room, bar and lounge area.
Occupying a 3000 square feet space, the ‘house’ (indoor) accommodates 65 diners while the ‘garden’ (al fresco) accommodates 100.
The interior is a deliberate mishmash of rusticity, eclecticism and modernity, where every piece of furniture is handpicked to create a homely atmosphere. Well-captured photos hung on the walls feature the chef and crew. Dishes are also artistically plated on a series of unique crockery commissioned from a local ceramic artist, specially for Portico.
Hungarian Pork Collar Kebab and Paprika Fries, Crusty Bread and Tsatziki ($13/$24)
Diners will be mesmerised by contemporary western-inclined dishes that brim with robust flavours and accented with thoughtful offbeat touches –concomitantly food that Chef and owners personally love and would serve their guests at home.
Crispy Soft Shell Crab ($9.50)
The menu includes moreish bites, comforting soups, refreshing salads, hearty pies and sandwiches, substantial main courses and imaginative desserts.
Do note that pictures in this post are of tasting portion sizes.
Fried Herb-Crusted Chicken Wings ($7)
Scrumptious conversation-starters include the highly addictive Crispy Soft Shell Crab, and Fried Herb-Crusted Chicken Wings –mid-joint wings are separated into halves, one bone on each for easy devouring.
Grape and Quinoa Salad, Sugar Snap Peas and Fresh Raspberries ($14)
This salad spells unconventional for obvious reasons. Contrasting the sweetness of grape and tang of raspberries, watermelon chunks are steamed till soft with an almost mushy mouth-feel and lightly salted, which accents the slight cucumber note. Sugar snap peas replace the usual suspects of salad greens. All these and supergrain quinoa (that boasts health benefits) are tossed in Spanish olive oil. It’s a party in your mouth –a wholesome and nutritious one.
Crispy Sweetbread, Onion Puree and Heart of Palm Salad ($17/$29)
You don’t want to know what sweetbread is if you don’t already know –not before you eat it. Eat it, savour it, then let the truth slowly be revealed to you –this way you won’t have trouble stomaching the first bite, and will eventually learn to appreciate it more. Cooked in milk before deep-frying, the panko-breaded sweetbread is crunchy on the outside, tender and succulent within –it has a texture of a cross between chicken and pork. Served alongside is a slightly sweet dollop of caramelised onion puree that further elevates this dish.
Kombu Soba Noodles with Truffle and Crispy Brown Shrimp ($16)
Soba noodles are cooked in kombu (kelp/seaweed) broth, drained, and tossed in truffle oil. The crowning of crispy Japanese shrimp seals the deal.
Sea Bass Fish and Chips with Crushed Peas and Fresh Mint ($19)
The Sea Bass Fish and Chips is a highlight. The establishment believes strongly in sourcing locally for the freshest ingredients where possible; the sea bass comes from the shores of Pulau Ubin, delivered to the restaurant daily. How can it get any fresher than this? Also, the batter is no child’s play. Tiger beer is aerated in a siphon before mixing in with the batter to yield a texture exceptionally light, crunchy and thin like second skin when fried. The fish needs no condiment –in fact any condiment would spoil or mask the quality of it. Crushed peas served alongside are invigorated with fresh mint –not usually a fan of peas but the added burst of minty freshness was rather pleasing to the palate.
Red Wine-Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek and Bourguignon Sauce ($27)
The mere mention of wagyu is instant allurement. And if there’s one part of the beef I covet most, it is the beef’s cheek. Wagyu beef cheek? I’ll be first in line. Here it is braised in red wine for 3 hours to deliver that fork-tender goodness. Also worth mentioning is the creamy mashed potato that has not a single trace of butter –just reduced cream, thyme-infused cream to be precise. The accompanying spheres of Chinese pear help cut the richness overall.
Dragon Fruit, Mango and Sugar Snap Pea Fruit Salad with Lychee Shaved Ice ($13)
End the meal on a refreshing note with the fruit salad accompanied by lychee shaved ice that’s utterly smooth and almost creamy without the cream. I melted (in sheer gratification) before it did.
Manjari H20 Ganache and Sweet Corn Sorbet, Roasted Hazelnuts and Cashew Praline ($16)
This is an artful melange of dessert components, though slightly confusing on where to begin and how to eat it. I ended up pecking at each component individually, where I found immense pleasure in the Manjari dark chocolate ganache.
Tart Aux Citron and Onion Ice Cream ($14)
Another must-try, the Tart Aux Citron comes with a crunchy cookie-like tart crust, overflowing with custardy and zesty goodness. The accompanying onion ice cream is a revelation from dessert heaven. Revealing the initial stage of the ice cream making process, caramelised white onion is deglazed in the pan with cream.
I have already recommended Portico to friends and acquaintances even before writing this post (although I must say it has been quite a delay). For the environs and food, Portico is well worth the visit.
Mondays to Fridays: 8am to 11.30pm
Saturdays: 11am to 11.30pm