In spite of my no-dining-at-new-restaurants-until-they-pass-the-1-year-mark policy, I have, on occasion, been swayed by my friends' recommendations. A friend had recommended Portico, a new-ish bistro set up by his friend. Friend-connection aside, the bistro bar boasts good pedigree. Its executive chef has worked in the lauded kitchen of The Fat Duck, and closer to home, Saint Pierre and Fifty Three. Portico's owners also run Pasarbella hot favourite: the paella-offering Le Patio, so they know a thing or two about popular taste.

Nestled in the garden of an old-school, low-rise office block, I found Portico's setting very reminiscent of Skyve. We passed by a fragrant herb garden on the way in, lovingly planted by Portico's staff, and (I thought) a brilliantly sustainable source of seasoning the fusion cuisine here. While lunch wasn't a slamdunk, the food was hearty and charming in a simple, unpretentious way.

One bonus: the service staff here truly aim to please. We (very shamelessly) name-dropped our friend's contact, in a feeble attempt to get a discount, and it actually worked!

On weekdays, be sure to get their set lunch, attractively priced at only $28 for a food coma-inducing substantive 2-course set. The Caesar Salad (part of the set lunch appetizer option and at $16 ala carte price) makes for a full meal in itself. Moist, smoky, grilled chicken, crisp bacon, garlic croutons, shaved parmesan and mesclun greens are held together by a salty anchovy dressing. It was real fun smearing the wobbly soft poached 63degree egg all over the salad.

The Cauliflower Truffle Soup (part of set lunch appetizer option and at $13 ala carte price) was, unfortunately, too cloying on the cream, and even copious lashings of truffle oil and the fresh oniony chives couldn't quite save the dish.

The BBQ Chicken (part of set lunch main course option and at $23 ala carte price), succulent, juicy, and imbued with an aromatic char, was sided by a spiced tomato chutney and skewered baby potatoes, pineapples and cherry tomatoes.

The Japanese-influenced Spaghetti Aglio Olio (part of set lunch main course option and at $18 ala carte price) was texturised by a shitake saute, garlic chips, and ladys finger tempura fritter. The unique fusion worked well.

Another Japanese-inspired dish, the chilled Kombu Soba Noodles ($19) was made delightfully crunchy with the generous addition of candy-crisp brown shrimp and toasted buckwheat seeds. Truffle oil and kelp flavoured the chewy noodles.

991B Alexandra Road #01-10
Tel: 6276 7337
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 11.30pm for dinner
Sundays from 9.30am to 3pm
Closed on Mondays
Website: portico.sg

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