Our Christmas feasting began with dinner on Christmas eve at Portofinos Restaurant in Mindarie with Juji and Jay. The Restaurant and Function Centre is located at Quinns Beach, all the way up Freeway North. The dining room is spacious with high ceilings and large windows overlooking the ocean.
The restaurant did offer a Christmas set menu (AU$60 per person) for groups of 12 or more. We didn’t qualify, being only a group of four, but I think the a la carte menu appealed more to our tastes anyway.
We shared a tasting plate for two (AU$26). On the plate was prosciutto, chicken liver parfait (piped appealingly onto the plate Mr Whippy style), freshly fried juicy sliced sausage, olives, homemade dip, feta and crispy wood-fired flat breads. There was plenty on the plate, nicely presented, and we were glad there were four of us to share it.
For her main course, Jac ordered one of Portofinos wood oven baked pizzas – the rustica (AU$26), which is topped with tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto, mushrooms, crumbled feta and sundried tomatoes. It was lovely, with a crispy yet chewy base and perfect amounts of the two cheeses. My only complaint about the pizza was the same complaint I have about most pizzas with mushroom – needs more mushroom!
Jay ordered the seafood platter for one (AU$42). It was an impressive seafood feast featuring tempura prawns, oysters natural and Kilpatrick, smoked salmon, panfried salmon fillet, salt and pepper calamari and fish and chip-style fried fish with a wonderfully crispy batter. Unfortunately, Jay unsuspectingly tasted the mashed potato (and why should anyone be suspicious of mashed potato on a dinner plate in a restaurant?) only to discover rock salt hidden beneath had made it incredibly salty! Mashed potato was not mentioned on the menu as being part of the dish and it was odd to serve mashed potato on a seafood platter, but since it was on the plate, Jay thought he’d eat it. A bad decision, as it turned out. By the looks (and ugh, taste) of it, the chef had first placed the oysters on rock salt, but then added a blob of mashed potato for better traction, inadvertently booby trapping the mashed potato. This is not the kind of thing you want your restaurant to be remembered for.
It was good we didn’t have the Christmas set menu – Juji and I would’ve missed out on the twice cooked crispy skin pork belly, served with apple puree, braised cabbage and scallops on a skewer (AU$36). The scallops were tender but barely seared as described on the menu – they could’ve been amazing but lacked caramelisation and spring. The pork was simply magnificent – buttery rich, soft and tender fatty meat with delicately thin and crispy skin. We didn’t need our knives at all. The pork belly was a carnivore’s delight that tempted even the most generous of diners to become greedy and selfishly quiet – to keep it all to herself! Two blobs of mashed potato on either side of the pork made me conclude that the chef has a penchant for using mashed potato to hold food in place on the plate. And no, the menu didn’t mention mashed potato as being part of the pork belly dish either. It wasn’t a problem, just seemed a little quirky.
We also shared an excellent Caesar salad (AU$8) – no frills or embellishments, just a tasty Caesar salad.
Even with some help from the rest of us (how else did I know the fish had a wonderfully crispy batter?), Jay was too full to contemplate dessert. Jac said she’d be happy to share a dessert. So Juji and I picked two desserts for us all to share.
Juji chose the tiramisu ala Portofino (AU$12). It was served in a glass and topped with dark chocolate curls. Tiramisu traditionalists may be dissatisfied with its composition – mostly marscapone with just a suggestion of sponge finger. But we enjoyed it and scraped the glass clean – it was lusciously light and creamy with a beautiful coffee flavour.
I chose the citrus creme brulee with lychee sorbet (AU$12). The brulee had a cracking good toffee crust that we took great pleasure in tapping then breaking with our spoons to reveal the citrus aroma of the silky custard beneath. The lychee sorbet sat on a bed of powdered chocolate with a crisp nutty biscotti. Both brulee and sorbet were delicious and beautifully presented, but didn’t complement really each other – every mouthful of citrus brulee rendered the next spoonful of lychee sorbet tasteless (the phenomenon of sweetness cancelling out sweetness). And chocolate powder and lychee sorbet, while individually delightful, are not great partners either. I wondered whether chocolate powder was the mashed potato of desserts. :)
Service wasn’t anything to rave about. Our water glasses were refilled but no further attempt was made to remove emplty glasses or take drink orders beyond the first round. Jay ordered a Carlton Mid and was brought a Stella Artois instead. We were offered dessert but the waiter who took the dessert order did not appear to note on the docket (or remember, seeing as she delivered the desserts) that the desserts were to be shared – which we mentioned when ordering. Extra spoons were promptly fetched but really, there was no need to ask who was having the tiramisu when delivering it to the table. Ditto the citrus creme brulee. This also accentuated the lack of use of position numbers (“Who ordered the pizza?” “Who ordered the seafood platter?” …sigh).
I thought it strange that the waiter who cleared our main course dishes and brought the dessert menus didn’t give the table a wipe down. We’re not particularly messy eaters but the table was looking rather grotty with clearly visible crumbs, dribbles and condensation from cold drink glasses. The waiter, apparently oblivious to this, placed the menus on the table, right on top of the puddles and bits of food. The menus were not covered with easy-wipe plastic – it would’ve been easier, less icky and probably more hygienic to quickly wipe down the table than try to clean the food off the porous menu covers later.
It certainly wasn’t cheap – the price of a beachside location and ocean view I presume – but the food was great, apart from booby trapped mashed potato. We initially detected a hint of a strange, unpleasant smell in the restaurant which we think was from air conditioning in need of a good service. The odour was a little off-putting until the food arrived and distracted me but if the smell had been any stronger it would’ve had a negative impact on my appetite. It was a shame the windows did not open to let some of the natural sea breeze in.
Next to the restaurant and function centre is Portofinos Cafe, open for breakfast and lunch 7 days from 8.30am to 4.30pm.
Despite the criticisms I’ve made above, overall it was a very pleasant evening and we enjoyed our dinner at Portofinos. We’d eat there again if we happened to be in the area but wouldn’t make a special trip to dine there.* I’d go back for the food, not the service.
Portofinos Restaurant and Functions
2 Quinns Rd
Mindarie WA 6030
Telephone: (08) 9305 7200
Mon – Tue: closed
Wed – Sat: 4.30pm till late
Sun: 12pm – 8pm
*As it happened, over Christmas weekend we house-sat/dog-sat for one of Jac’s work colleagues who lives up Quinns Rock/Mindarie way. That’s why we thought we’d try Portofinos in the first place (the menu sounded very good!) – we’re very rarely anywhere near Mindarie.