Monday, January 17, 2011


the first time we tasted potabella's food was at the taste of st. louis, where we had portabella's "kick ass fries."  they were good enough for us to book a dinner reservation not long after, but we had a little car mishap (good going, clark, where did that curb come from!?), so we weren't in the best spirits when we sat down for grub.  so, finally, months later, after a super cautious drive through clayton, we sat down to lunch at portabella for a review.  here's how things went down...


there isn't much in the way of decor at portabella, but it doesn't look bad, either.  they have a couple cute, crescent-shaped booths, but otherwise things are pretty straightforward: cloth-covered tables, a bar, etc.  if available, ask to be seated at a booth.
on this particular visit, our waitress was... not so good.  it's not that she was aggressively mean or sarcastic, but she made us feel like we were putting her out.  she also disappeared for quite some time, which would have been fine by us had she vanished after putting in our order.  in any case, another waiter filled in for her at times, and he was able to tell us more about the vegetarian offerings (just like the waiter we had the first time).  so, we guess two outta three aint bad.

just as with our first visit to portabella, we began our meal with their home-made foccacia.  really, it is quite good, but we couldn't help noticing that this particular batch felt like the leftovers from the lunch rush: good, but a bit expired.  still, in its tired state, this is still better foccacia than you'll find at most restaurants. from here, we moved on to the "kick ass fries," which are a delectable combination of perfectly cooked fries, garlic, asiago, and parsley.  thing is, the only time we've ever seen parsley on the fries was at the taste of st. louis; neither time we've visited the restaurant have we received parsley on the fries.  a minor quibble, perhaps, but we'd like see 1) a little green on the fries and 2) an accurate menu description.  in any case, the fries were fun to eat, so we didn't raise a fuss.

the vegetable wrap was up next.  we almost always avoid wraps wherever we go, as they're usually just a throwaway menu item for chefs that don't want to accommodate vegetarians but feel they have to, but the menu at portabella gave us few options.  so we weren't expecting much when we ordered the wrap, but it was surprisingly tasty.  it came packed with a generous portion of greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a stunningly good white bean hummus.  the tortilla wrap itself had just enough flavor to make it worth at least some of the calories, and the rest of the ingredients made us feel pretty good about the selection in terms of healthfulness and flavor.

we concluded the meal with margherita flatbread, which came topped with a fairly flavorless mozzarella, some tasty roma tomatoes, and some relatively lifeless basil.  not exactly a crowd pleaser.  as for the flatbread supporting the ingredients, it was good, but perhaps a bit too dense.  it's pretty, no doubt, but as clark put it, "it's just food." 

you'll also notice that there are side salads on each of our entrees.  frankly, these two salads were among the highlights of the meal.  the mesclun greens were fresh and flavorful, combining the sweetness and bitterness of different lettuces, and the combination of gorgonzola, walnuts, kalamata olives, and house balsamic was simply divine.  we would both happily destroy an entire bucket of that salad.

overall, portabella delivered a solid, if unspectacular, dining experience.  there were certainly things that we enjoyed, but we were turned off by the inconsistent service and food preparation.  still, what we really want is a more vegetarian-friendly menu.  portabella has some strong options already, but a vegetarian needs more than just a handful of choices.


vegetarian-friendly score:

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