Portobello Ristorante, Italian

My entertainment book coupons brought us to “Portobello”. I had three of them and planned to take up their offer for “one complimentary dinner entree when a second dinner entree of equal or greater value is purchased”. We were three women and this would have given us each, one dish to eat in and another to take home. No where was there a limitation posted on the coupon or their website. But upon presentation of them I was told I could only use one at a time. We were then asked to invite another guest to join us to make our three a party of four, so we could use two coupons. I thought to myself what difference would it make if we are willing to pay for it all the same? The owner was unmoving on this, as he communicated through our server. Instead of coming to address us personally, he hid behind his employee. Our middle aged server had to bring our message to him, and his to us; this went on back and forth several times. This was a bad start, and an omen of the worse to come. 

It was not like we were cheap patrons. We ordered pints of beer, a carafe of red wine, hard shots, two appetizers, three entrees, and two dessert. Yet was not worthy enough for the owner to step out from behind the bar to address our concerns in person. I was upset, but we stayed as we were already settled. I choose the full booth towards the back of the house, and climbed in, after I dusted off all the crumbs from our soon to be seats. Unflinching our server watched. I did ask for him to take another go of the rag across the table’s surface. Our corner seats gave us quiet and reprieve from the conversations, held by the only other three tables seated here on a Sunday night. The restaurant was simply decorated. The beige walls remained empty with pictures unhung. Dim and low spot lights pointed towards the ceiling, giving the place a romantic feel. And wooden chairs and matching tables sat, adorned with white table settings. 
“Bocconcini alla caprese”, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Exactly as its list of ingredients state. There was not enough balsamic to lend each component its flavoring. The tomato had not fully ripen, this made it taste and feel like watery tomato peel. The mozzarella was the best part, but I have no way of knowing if this was as fresh as our server preached it to be. Overall definitely not worth what we were asked to pay for it. 

“Prosciutto & Melone”, imported Italian Parma prosciutto and cantaloupe melon. A great combination, familiar to Italian cuisine, but new to me. The saltiness of the meat melds well to the sweetness of the cantaloupe. One of my guests had this before and informed us that the prosciutto is better and more commonly paired with honey dew. 

“Ossobuco Classico”, veal shank, braised with red wine, rosemary, carrots, celery, and served over risotto. Our server led us to believe this dish would contain bone morrow. As we dug around for some, we grew more and more disappointed in its absence. It was just meat and risotto. Everything was mushy and had one flavour note, thanks to the sauce running out of bounds on the plate. 

“Linguine al pesto con carciofini”, fresh basil pesto, roasted pine nuts with artichoke. This was unfortunately the only vegetarian option for my non meat eating guest. It was good, but honestly so simple and easy that I would be ashamed if it came to us anything less than. 

“Vitello al Marsala con funghi”, thin slices of veal, sautéed with mushrooms, paired with a butter Marsala wine sauce. Served with a side of fresh vegetables. It resembled thick and gloppy beef stew. Nothing separated this taste from that of the “ossobuco”, despite its differing list of ingredients. I would have thought the two were different portions from the same pot. Definitely not worth the $24 price point attached to it. It was one of those times you know the food is bad, but because you choose the restaurant you over compensate by pretending it is the best thing you have ever had. You couple each bite with yummy “mmmmm” noises to hide the shame. 

Classic vanilla creme brûlée. Their other desserts mention being made in house, so it leads me to believe that this, without the same designation, was purchased elsewhere; then torched on top upon serving. Explains why this was the best thing I had tonight. Though I must add in I adore creme brûlée in all its forms, and even more so when it has a large surface area for optimal amounts crispy burnt sugar per spoonful. The cookie plunged in was an interesting touch and made for an extra treat. 

We also took our server’s suggestion to order their dessert of the day, a pre made apple tart with a side of vanilla ice cream. He convinced us to get it cold, guaranteeing it would be for the best, and that he preferred it this way too. Upon reflection who eats apple pie cold? It’s the best hot, fresh out of the oven with a dollop of ice cream melting over top. The cream permeates the pie crust creases and makes each bite all the more delicious. We were eating later, and they were closing, may be they didn’t want the hassle of heating it up in the oven? Either way a great disappointment cold, despite how tasty the pie was. This too I believe was not prepared in house. 

To end our meal we were given a complimentary chocolate spiced cookie and two meringues to share between three grown women. The math did not add up, but we were too full to care. Was this generosity a gesture of apology for the start of the dinner before the bill and tip? Or scrap that would have other wise been thrown away? Either way it was good and I do not want to read anymore into it then I usually do. 

Would I come back? Absolutely not. Beside the lack of customer service when dealing with my coupon and thereafter dissatisfaction. The quality of food was not worth it’s price. Yes we were full but not near being content. I still have two more entertainment book coupons that I plan to discard. Anyone interested in relieving me of them? 
Would I recommended it? No. There is nothing special about this restaurant worth mentioning. This is home cooking disguised as fine dining. And hiding behind an attempt at a classy presentation and expensive costs. 

1429 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6H 1H6
Tel: 604-734-0697

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2 thoughts on “Portobello Ristorante, Italian

  1. If I remember correctly, somewhere in the Entertainment book and on their website, it says
    only one card/coupon may be used for every two people, up to a maximum of three cards/coupons per party.

  2. Actually it does not list those same stipulations this year. Having said that, they have really gone down hill the past few years, and I believe they are now out of business. I have spoken to a handful of business owners who have invested money to be in next year's book, only to be informed that they will be no book next year and that their money is gone. Regardless, from a customer service standpoint, the customer is always right. The presentation of the restaurant owner's case could have been made several different ways, all of which would be more suitable.

    Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. I hope you do more. 🙂

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