There are a handful of Italian restaurants in Bangsar but one of them shines for being affordable despite sharing a similar dining environment. Portofino, which just celebrated its first year anniversary early this month serves fresh and authentic Italian food at prices that won’t break the bank.
The kitchen is helmed by Chef Keli, a young but experienced Italian native who had worked in some of the best hotels and even a Michelin starred restaurant before finally deciding to run his own restaurant.
We decided to keep the meal as Italian as possible and avoided ordering any dish that’s too generic like grilled tenderloin steak, pumpkin soup and grilled slamon because those are quite common at any Western restaurants. The appetizer of Bruschetta alle Olive (Bruschetta with Black Olive Pâté) @ RM12 came highly recommended for having one of the more uncommon toppings.
Visually striking, the black olive pâté resembles caviar in appearance and a meat like texture after being blended with anchovies. I am not a huge fan of olives but I was surprised by how good it tasted to me. For those who don’t find black olives enjoyable, your other options include salmon, eggplant and tomato bruschetta – just to name a few.
The Borlotti Bean Soup @ RM14 is a classic Italian country soup that’s rich and hearty. Made with imported borlotti beans that are large and beige-coloured with pink stripes, the soup has a unique rustic texture almost like a cross between mushroom and tomato soup.
This was a special of the month so I am not sure if it’s still available during your visit. But if it’s there, it’s definitely worth trying if you are bored of the usual soups.
Pastas served at Portofino is separated into two sections – dry pasta and homemade pasta (spaghetti alla chittara) made fresh daily. If your favorite pasta is not available in their homemade pasta, simply top up RM4 for the substitution. The Spaghetti Portofino @ RM38 is the signature pasta here, cooked in a fish based stock and served with a medley of fresh seafood.
Compared to the normal store bought pasta, their homemade version is not as slippery and more coarse as intended, so it could hold more sauce in each bite. If possible, opt for their homemade pasta and you are sure to taste the difference.
Next up, our favorite dish of the night – Salmon Ravioli in Tomato Sauce @ RM34. I am not Italian but to me, the ravioli was perfect and delicious. The sauce’s seasoning was light but flavorful enough just to make its mark without overpowering the taste of the filling. Our only gripe was the smaller-than-expected portion size (6 pieces) because it was so good that we wanted more!
The Risotto ai Gamberi e Curry (Risotto Prawns & Curry Spices) @ RM36 is a creation of Chef Keli and what makes it special is the fusion of curry. For Asians, curry always goes well with rice so I guess there’s it’s no exception for Italian risotto too, as they paired up quite wonderfully. You might also be surprised to find diced apples in the risotto but they do lend a pleasant sweet and tart flavor to balance off the curry spices.
And how could we leave without having pizza? The pizzas served at Portofino are all 12 inches, thin and crispy and sliced into 8 pieces. Ideal for sharing and to try different flavours in a single pizza, the Pizza 4 Stagioni (Four Seasons Pizza) @ RM36 is topped with lots of cheese and generous amount of beef pepperoni, turkey ham, mushrooms and black olives. If you don’t like any of the default toppings, feel free to ask for something else and they will change it at no extra cost.
Since the desserts are affordable, we had the Panna Cotta (top) @ RM14 and an Almond Semifreddo (bottom) @ RM18. Both are enjoyable but if I had to pick, the semifreddo (semi-frozen dessert, like an ice cream cake) would be my choice because panna cotta is well, quite common. Besides, there’s nothing not to like about the semifreddo. We loved the interplay of subtly-sweet and nutty flavors when it melts in your mouth.
And here’s Chef Keli who started cooking since 14 and landed his first kitchen job at the age of 18. It was a pleasure to meet him and we had a good chat before we left. Apparently, Portofino does not source seafood and vegetables from suppliers. Instead, he heads to the wet market at Taman Tun twice a week to hand pick the produce that will then go on to be used in his restaurant.
The 2-storey Portofino comprises of a ground floor dining and drinking area for a casual evening, while the upper level offers a more intimate dining experience – perfect for special occasions and celebrations.
If you are looking for classic Italian fare that is also affordable, don’t hesitate to try Portofino. Most of their main dishes such as pasta, risotto and pizza are priced between RM20 and RM40 with the exception of meat and seafood that understandably cost more, but still a very fair price to pay considering the restaurant’s setting and location.Portofino Italian Restaurant (pork free)
No.1 Persiaran Ara Kiri, Lucky Garden
59100 Bangsar, KL
Business hours: 11am – 11pm daily
Tel: 03-2094 8490