delicious discourse

A Night at Portabla

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on March 15, 2008

Last weekend a co-worker and I put together a dinner party at Portabla, a small gourmet take-out place (delicious chicken and tuna salad) in Austin. Portabla recently started to do prix fixe dinners on Friday and Saturday nights and you can bring your own wine, etc. My co-worker and I decided it would be an adventure to get a group of friends together and rent out the whole thing (14 people is max capacity). The owner, Mark, a friend of Taylor (my co-worker), because of Taylor’s frequent patronage, was very accommodating to a) our group taking over the restaurant and b) working a menu around the variety of food allergies among the group (including shellfish, avocado, nuts, and especially peanuts). We also got to pick the time we wanted dinner to start. When we arrived, in order to create the illusion of long table, the little round tables were pushed together along the length of the shop with fresh flowers placed in the middle of each. While this works in theory, it creates a setting of very spaced out seating because two people sit at each table (across from each other) and no one can sit in the crease of where two tables meet. Mark and his helpers chilled our wine, but it was up to us to serve ourselves because they were in the kitchen preparing the food throughout the meal. The first course was my favorite, a roasted tomato soup (creamless, I might add) with a large grilled crouton skewered and stuffed with basil pesto. The soup was thick with a rough texture and a beautiful creamy burnt orange-red color. It was delicious but I was afraid to eat it all because I was unsure of what was to come, but after the meal I wish I could of returned to this first course to finish off my bowl. Following the soup was a much less impressive was a salad of two little fried egg-rolls atop a bed of cabbage and julienned carrots, tossed with a carrot viniagarette, and spiked with something with some serious kick. I ate the egg rolls  which were nothing special, and left the cabbage and carrots alone because the “kick” was out of place and a little overpowering. For the record, I love spicy foods. The entree course is what we had them build our menu around–a chipotle rubbed New York strip steak served on a grilled portobello mushroom with a sort of red pepper tapenade. My only complaint about this dish was the serving of steak was only three small strips. Feeling guilty, I gave one of mine to the boyfriend. I loved the portobello and I don’t even like mushrooms. But this one had a firm softness accented by seasonings and was perfect in its earthy taste. The dessert course was a simple serving of vanilla ice cream with a mango puree and a tuille cookies (a thin, crispy, ginger-like cookie). The flavors were all in place, but the puree had pieces of fresh mango which were tough due to it not being mango season. The only reason I know this is because I happen to eat a lot of mangoes when they are IN season,  May through September. M, desperately missing the sweet mango juice and crisp bite, purchased a few throughout the winter and they all had this rubbery texture as Portabla’s did. I don’t think anyone besides M and I noticed, but had I planned the dessert, I would have picked something more seasonal and not risked the presence of rubbery mangoes in my dessert. All in all, it was a wonderful evening of good food and flowing wine. The atmosphere was cozy and the service friendly and accommodating. I would recommend it once to anyone, but be prepared for a long meal with considerable time between courses. However, I think I will stick with Portabla’s excellent gourmet takeout, sandwiches, salads, entrees, and cookies.

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