Hosted on the Patio has been rebranded as Portico, “porch” in Italian. If you sit in the al fresco portico, just pluck any leaf from the garden and chew on it: the garden has edible herbs and plants that are used in the food.
To complement the homely decor, Executive Chef Leandros Stagogiannis (formerly from one of the best restaurants in the world, UK’s Fat Duck, and Singapore’s FiftyThree and Saint Pierre) presents rich, hearty home-style creations because to him, home-cooked food is about indulgence. Seasonal and fresh ingredients are sourced locally when possible. Everything, including the ice cream, is made in-house. Helping him are two talented young (muscular) chefs: Head Chef Nixon Low and Sous Chef Kelvin Tan (both formerly from Petite Menu).
There were some okay dishes, some good ones, and some creative ones. Skip the so-so snacks–we had chicken wings ($7) and soft shell crab ($9.50)–and go straight to the mains. The grape and quinoa salad ($14, pic shows tasting portion) was refreshing, great for a light lunch or brunch. When not cooked properly, high-protein quinoa, the only grain my trainer approves me of eating, has a bitterness, but not here. Here, quinoa was mixed with grape, sugar snap peas, fresh raspberries, and slivers of cooked watermelon. This was a balanced diet my trainer would approve: vegetarian, carbs, proteins, vitamins, antioxidants, fibre, low fat – and revitalizing too.
The creative dishes weren’t as good as the familiar, comfort food. Both the crispy sweetbread, onion puree and heart of palm salad ($17 starter/ $29 to share) and Hungarian pork collar kebab ($13 starter pictured above/ $24 main) were tough; and the kombu soba noodles, truffle, and crispy brown shrimp ($16), salty without truffle aroma.
But the comfort food was as good as it could get. Fish from seabass fish and chips ($19) is delivered from Pulau Ubin daily, and guaranteed to reach Portico from Ubin in two hours. How much fresher can it get? The beer batter was siphoned onto the fish so the crust was thinner than an anorexic model on Vogue. Super thin, crispy crust, thick chunk of fresh seabass still swimming two hours ago, very refreshing crushed peas with intense mint oil that could clear Fran Drescher’s nasal accent: the only thing that could improve was the curly fries, addictive, but mismatched.
The red wine-braised wagyu beef cheek and bourguignon sauce ($27) was extremely tender and so intensely rich it could afford a car in Singapore. The accompanying mash was mixed with cream. To undercut the richness, there were spheres of Chinese pears. This was one of the best beef cheeks I had, but also the richest, and may get jerlat or heart-attack after three bites, whichever comes first.
Tart aux citron (lemon tart)
The desserts were imaginative, beautifully plated, and delicious. I highly recommend lychee shaved ice ($13), invigorating after a full meal. It came with dragon-fruit, mango, pink guava and sugar snap pea. Some around the table said raw sugar snap pea didn’t go with shaved ice, but I liked it–the slight bitterness added a dimension to the sweet-sour dessert.
The tart aux citron ($14) was gorgeous and tart enough, sprinkled creatively with fried shallots! The onion ice cream was pure onion with cream, and went surprisingly well with the lemon tart. The 60% dark chocolate manjari H20 ganache and sweet corn sorbet, with roasted hazelnuts and cashew praline ($16, above) was fun too, and each component was delicious on its own, but did nothing as a whole.
Portico is somewhere I would hang out often. The ambience was unpretentious and easy like Sunday morning; the food was sincere, delicious, and reasonably priced. A place I would recommend for big groups, dates, and brunch.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
ps: Thanks, Daniel Food Diary, for bringing me, and Hsien Ming for hosting.