With a persistent parade of cafes still mushrooming across the suburbs, a new place like Porto Bello faces a tough task trying to stand out, but we appreciate how it aspires to provide some pleasant surprises for visitors.
Porto Bello is warm & welcoming, casual & comfortable, suitable for both lunch & dinner; the kitchen is helmed by Kian Seng, a young chef who returned to Malaysia this year after a lengthy stint in Singapore, where he sharpened his skills at restaurants such as CUT by Wolfgang Puck at Marina Bay Sands.
Porto Bello's current signature pick might be its namesake - a Portobello mushroom & chicken pie, unique & eye-catching.
Sandwiched between the succulent mushroom & flaky-fresh puff pastry is a thick hidden layer of marinated meat with mildly tangy Oriental flavours. A dish with nicely textured dimensions; the ideal illustration of Porto Bello's food - nothing pretentiously flashy, but pretty easy to enjoy. RM22.
Pasta fans might find pleasure in this spaghetti that seeks to be an Italian-Japanese hybrid, coated in creamy miso sauce, crowned with paper-thin bonito flakes & a sunny-side-up (remember to request a runny yolk if that's your preference). RM13.50.
Salmon is served with a confident sense of style, a tender seared slab made even more tantalising with vibrant beetroot puree, plus mashed potatoes, leaves & beurre blanc butter sauce. RM29.90.
Porto Bello is also proud of its smoked chicken, prepared with a sweet-savoury, kitchen-made barbecue sauce. Two customers could share this serving of half a fowl with fries for RM29.90 - prices here seem fair, no more than what's necessary to charge.
Light nibbles are available too for snacking, from fleshy crab cakes with tomato relish & herb aioli (RM10.90) ...
... to a respectable wild mushroom soup with baguette slices (RM8.90), vegetable-based borscht broth (RM6.90), chicken goujons (RM8.90), Swedish-style meatballs (RM9.50 for six pieces) & garlic cheese escargots (RM13.90 for six pieces).
Save space for sweets; Porto Bello's desserts prove satisfying. We like the chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream (RM13.90), an irreproachable version of this familiar favourite.
Panna cotta with strawberry sauce surfaced on the specials list recently; it's nice enough to keep on the permanent selection, which also features creme brulee & a walnut brownie (RM10.90 each). Our gratitude to Porto Bello for hosting this lunch.
Your perception of Porto Bello's coffee could hinge on whether you're the type who more often complains or counts your blessings. Customers in the first category might declare that the lattes, cappuccinos & mochas here (RM8.90) are 'nothing to shout about'; folks of the latter persuasion will recognise & enjoy the effort poured into making each well-crafted cup.
8, Jalan SS 21/58, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Open Mon-Fri, 11am-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-10pm
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