Thursday, October 8, 2009

Portabella (in review)

Last night gave me a rare opportunity to see a couple of my friends from graduate school...luckily all of these get togethers involve good food. This time around we were off to Portabella in downtown Clayton. None of us had ever been here to eat, but ever since I tried their "kick-ass fries" at the St. Louis Art Fair a few years ago, I hunt their booth down annually at this event and more recently at the Taste of St. Louis to have some. They call these fries "garlic-asiago fries" on the online menu but on their menu at the restaurant and their food booth at events call them "kick-ass fries." Kick-ass is definitely an appropriate description...these bad boys are phenomenal! I suppose they could call them "phenomenal fries" but it wouldn't have quite the impact as the current name.

We had reservations but it seems we didn't need them...only a few other tables in the restaurant were taken on this particular Wednesday night. Wine list by the bottle was nice but by the glass was a little skimpy, I have to admit. Only one cab? Oh well. The food and the service absolutely made up for it!

First of all, our waiter, whose name is escaping me right now, was wonderful. Sure he forgot to put in our order for kick-ass fries until I asked him about them a little later on but this was possibly the best service I have ever had, anywhere, ever. He wass absolutely dedicated to making sure that everything was exactly the way we liked it. He talked to us about customizing our dishes and changing things any way we wanted to make sure we got exactly what was best for us. For example, I ordered the Chicken Milanese but I'm (surprisingly) not a huge fan of marinara, which is on the side of pasta. Our waiter explained that the chicked comes on top of the side of pasta with the pasta tossed in marinara and marinara over the chicken. Oh, well marinara on the chicken actually sounded good but I'm still more of a cream sauce person (imagine that). So cream sauce went on my pasta and marinara stayed on the chicken...ended up being a really nice contrast. The pasta was just tossed in cream sauce, not drowned in it, and it wasn't too heavy or anything. And the portion sizes were huge! I barely made it through half of mine before having to box it up. I was one satisfied girl. :)

So here's how I rate Portabella in full:

Setting: 3.5--Downtown Clayton is a really neat area. However, parking was terrible (even on a Wednesday night) and with 40 still partially closed it was tricky for some members of our party to get there.
Ambiance: 4--A little too dark for my liking but it didn't feel too stuffy like some places can when the lights are that low. I think it would have been even better if it had been a little bit more crowded...seems strange to say but I think I would have gotten a little better feel for it that way.
Service: 5--I was really impressed with the service if you couldn't tell already. I wish I could remember our waiter's name...I would tell you all to sit in his section.
Food: 5--Everything I had was awesome and it sounded like everyone else was really enjoying theirs as well. Even Audrey, whose pasta was too spicy, loved it once our waiter brought her a small dish of marinara to mix in with her "spicy marinara" to tone it down....again with the awesome service. And while there were options above $20 most entrees were in the teens.
Drink: 3--Like I said, I was disappointed with the lack of variety on the "by the glass" part of the wine menu. They were a bit overpriced, too, in my opinion. I would love to see more selection, especially some more reasonable choices.

Overall...I'd give Portabella a 4. I would absolutely go back...just might sneak a bottle of wine in with me. ;) Just kidding! (maybe)


  1. I forgot to mention that Portabella won the top chef challenge at Taste of St. Louis last week! Amazing!!!

  2. Nice review, I live in Clayton but have still not made it in yet. I'll have to give it a shot.

    I can't imagine parking being a huge problem here - there's a whole metered parking lot on the same street as Portabella, a little further down (N. Central Ave b/t Bonhomme and Carondelet, I believe) - was it full or were people just not familiar with the area?

  3. It was full! I was shocked...especially at 7:30 on a Wednesday night.