Portabella restaurant is at the Fontana Hotel. It is easy to access with the hotel's underground parking and very conveniently located if you are working in the area or just passing through.
Restaurants in hotels rarely attract from outside but there are many reasons to visit Portabella.
The restaurant is in two halves, inside in the air-con, or on the covered garden terrace that adjoins. They also offer a special Business Lunch Menu, in and out in an hour, tasty food at budget prices, two different menus, but I will concentrate on their full a la carte menu. The foccaccia bread served hot from the wood fired oven on arrival is so good it is almost a reason alone to visit. Soft and light totally different to that plastic compound sold commercially. A light brushing of olive oil and a sprinkle of rosemary only helps. The accompanying balsamic and olive oil dip is normal the mango salsa is not and is impossible to ignore. Presiding over all is their Italian chef, Vittorio Negri, who has the build of an Italian tenor and as he tosses the pans in the open kitchen you almost expect him to burst into song!
Lunch can be short and sweet with a snack or two from the Business Lunch menu or a long leisurely affair using the full a la carte version. Start with Crab Cakes [Borneo crabs, arancini style - Sicilian breadcrumb coated balls with curcumin [turmeric] and chilli mayonnaise] or an unusual Tuna Tartare in an orange soup topped with water melon. Eggplant Parmigiana is in true Sicilian style. So different was the entrée of the, Sicilian again but this time street food, Arancini, deep-fried rice balls with a spicy dip. Then there is Octopus di St. Lucia, slow cooked octopus with cherry tomatoes, black olives and capers.
Feel like a soup? Cream of Asparagus with crème fraiche and mint flavoured oil or Caciucco, a special seafood soup from Tuscany crammed full of pieces of cuttlefish, mussels, mantis shrimps and red mullet, all of which have been simmered in a spicy tomato broth. The King Crab Soup is with leeks and dill flavoured oil. No Italian menu is complete without the traditional classic Minestrone Soup of mixed vegetables. There is always a Soup of the Day and if you are lucky, as I was, then it may be Vittorio's favourite, a Lentil Soup that is thick and rich with a liberal sprinkling of sliced sausage making it as hearty as any from Central Europe. Wonderful!
The Chicken Salad uses yoghurt marinated breast grilled, served warm and tossed with rocket, parmesan flakes and walnuts. An Asian Duck Salad combines grilled duck breast with plum tomatoes, onions, asparagus and mixed leaves in a honey balsamic dressing. Perhaps you just want to pick at your food and fancy a platter to share with your friends? There are three to choose from; Vegetarian [marinated olives, artichokes, semi-dried tomato, fried mozzarella, zeppoline and parmigiana], Seafood [marinated mahi-mahi, smoked salmon, olives, artichokes, semi-dried tomato, fried calamari, prawns and tuna tartar], or Italian Cuts [Parma ham aged 2 years, pancetta, Napoli salami, finocchiona, bresaola, marinated olives, artichokes and semi-dried tomatoes].
As with all Italian restaurants you first rate the pasta. At Portabella the pasta is superb! Linguina Negra is Sicilian inspired, black ink white and green pasta tossed with crab meat from Kalimantan muddies and a garlic-infused tomato sauce, so perfect! As is the Rigatoni al rugu bianco, large tube pasta coated with lamb ragout, pine nuts and porcini mushrooms, fantastic! Spaghettoni with clams and squid [pictured] is a typical Italian pasta dish from the fishing ports of Italy where the fresh daily catch is used with almost everything. The squid is even tender but only the Italians seem to now how to do that. The Risotto uses carnaroli rice, and can be with king prawns or duck breast. Many other pastas and cooking styles are available on request. The Pizza menu lists all the classical options plus a Portabella Special with pork sausage and peppers.
Mains can be a Chicken Supreme [stuffed with wilted spinach and taleggio in a mushroom sauce], Beef Cheeks [slowly cooked brasato style], Rib-eye Fillet, Barramundi, Sesame-crusted Tuna or King Prawns Guazzetto. Orange flavoured Duck Breast is a touch of French cuisine but Osso Buco is about as Italian as you can get? This special of Milan is served with saffron risotto. Rock Lobster takes the pride of place as the restaurant?s special main course, served with squid-ink tagliolini.
For dessert in an Italian restaurant what is better than the classic Tiramisu, mascarpone cream layered between espresso and amaretto dipped fingers. For something different a White Chocolate Cheesecake with passion fruit jelly or an Italian Special in the colours of the Italian flag; coconut, strawberry, lemon, orange and mint.
Altogether not exactly what you expect to find in a city type hotel on the outskirts of Kuta? Portabella displays a new sophistication and as a by product amazingly good value for such high quality food. Definitely worth a visit, go once and it will not be your last!