Portico | Something Old, Something New

March 2015.
I think I might have found one of my favourite restaurants. I was here during the last Restaurant Week and this year we were back at Portico twice. The theme of this year’s Restaurant Week is "Something old, something new - A modern take on comfort favourites" and both my friend and I were particularly impressed by Portico’s effort to come up with a menu following the theme which featured dishes came up by different chefs within Portico, inspired by their memories.

“Kopitiam Bacon and Eggs” | Like a local take on the Eggs Benedict. Very Good.
75 Degrees Celsius Sous Vide Egg, Smoked Bacon and Jamon Mash, Kopitiam Toasts, Dark Soy on the Side (by Chef Nixon Low)
I wasn’t expecting out of this item, as I was expecting another of those curried hollandaise sauce kind of thing that I have seen in other establishments when they attempted to do a twist to kaya toast. This was different and in a really good way.

Here the chef made a good choice of pairing mash, a well toasted bread and a soft, runny egg with bits of smoked bacon. All of which came together very well and you could spice it up with the soy sauce or white pepper. I wish this would be a permanent brunch item as it was pretty good!

“Chicken Rice Risotto” | Excellent.
Roulade of Boneless Chicken Leg, Chilli Fluid Gel, Ginger Salsa, Dark Soy Sauce and Garlic Vinaigrette (by Chef Sherine)
Initially, I was uneasy with use of terms like “chilli fluid gel” and “ginger salsa” in the item. Fortunately, when the food came, that uneasiness faded into silence as my companion and I slowly savoured and comprehend this dish. For one, the chicken leg was really really good, so tender and still moist from its juices with a wonderful delicate crispy skin. The condiments that paired with it was excellent as well, the “chilli sauce” was tangy, not too spicy and actually yummy on its own. I loved that hint of lime-like flavour within the sauce. In short, this is a worthy homage to one of my favourite local dishes.

“Bubur Chacha” | Good but coconut aftertaste was very strong.
Coconut Ice, Sweet Potato Croquette, Purple Yam Chiffon Café (by Chef Charlene)
By now, we were almost convinced that a re-visit is needed to try their creations for dinner and the Bubur Chacha gave that final nudge for us to come back. Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it is how the various textures, colours and flavours came together…or perhaps the food, in its contemporary arrangement managed to executive familiar flavours in a comforting way.

Personally, I thought the sweet potato croquette was too sweet and rich to be part of this dessert and the coconut after taste was very strong.

“Penang Laksa” | Okay.
Assam Broth, Mint and Pineapple Salsa, Crispy Mackerel. Fish Noodle, Pickled Ginger and Lettuce Slaw (by Chef Ken)
And there we were, back for dinner. The Penang Laksa easily sets the dinner apart from the lunch. While lunch items were “new”, they are more of a re-arrangement of the elements from the dishes we associate with. Dinner on the other hand shows more innovation in the dishes.

The Penang Laksa broth gave me mixed feelings, while I enjoyed the savoury mix of sweet & spicy pineapple salsa, Assam broth with its distinct sourness from the tamarind and the fish noodles which was something different. While it did capture the familiar flavours from an Assam Laksa, I thought something was amiss for this dish.

“Beef Satay” | Good.
8 Hours Sous Vide Oyster Blade in Satay Spices, Shallot Rings, Puffed “Ketupat”, Burnt Cucumber Puree (By Chef Nick)
The Satay Spices was really good and the burnt cucumber puree is kind of new. The dish also came with bits of sweet tasting caramelized onions. The oyster blade was seemingly given a spice rub or seasoning of some sort as it has flavours of the satay sauce in it even without the sauce. Overall, it was enjoyable but wasn't as impressive as the Chicken Risotto.

“Milo Dinosaur” | Excellent
Milo Panna Cotta, “Milo Powder”, Cocoa Shiratama (By Chef Nixon Low)
The Milo Dinosaur was the fireworks segment for this meal. It ended well and on a high note that captured the Restaurant Week theme very well. This brought me back to childhood, when milo was the ultimate dessert, when I would enjoy milo with big spoons of condensed milk and powdery milo powder to munch on with joy. Perhaps it was an oversight but I thought the use of a big oversized spoon rather than a dessert spoon for this dessert was a nice detail that really reminded me of my childhood days, eating milo with a big spoon.

One exception though, this was definitely a lot more refined, the milo panna cotta was smooth and nice balance of milky and milo flavours. The use of a milo-flavour crumb mixture with surprises in it as well as the use of chew mochi made this so much better and yet at the same time captured the nostalgic flavours so well. I thought this is a much better homage to the Milo Dinosaur compared to Morsels’ take.

If you want familiar flavours with a contemporary execution, lunch it is. If you want more twist to familiar dishes, then that would be dinner.

#01-10, 991B Alexandra Rd
Singapore 119970


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