Annex 117: Portovino | Mr. Lew's Great Burger Search

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3035 du Carrefour
Carrefour Laval
Laval, Québec

Bus:  STL 39, 42, 50, 56, 60, 61, 63, 66, 70, 902, 903, CIT Laurentides 8

Visit:  August 6, 2013

http://www.portovino.ca/

Finding food on the island of Laval is not an easy thing if you’re being particular.  The overabundance of chain restaurants is something that seems to be the key identity of Laval.  Some of those chains are good, while with others, they need not be mentioned.  One has to wonder how Portovino stacks up when it comes to scrutiny.

After having come back from my stomping grounds with Steakman just days prior, it was appropriate to head further north towards an area more familiar with him.  Situated in the center of Laval, Portovino is one of a few major chain restaurants that anchors the Carrefour.  Carrefour Laval is a beautiful shopping center and it also happens to be the second largest one in the province of Quebec.  Now, this post isn’t about malls, which I can go forever about, but the restaurant attached to it.  What makes things even better is that we didn’t have to set foot inside the actual mall to reach Portovino.

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For a Tuesday evening, Portovino was quite busy.  That little fact didn’t affect how quickly we were seated.  On your way in, you can get a great glimpse of the kitchen.  But, be careful, as the dessert display case is right at the front door.  Some of those items were quite the sight to see and I’m surprised that we didn’t have to go through a throng of people to get to our table.  Coming into this place, my judgement would have to be on the desserts, since Steakman was raving about a particular cannoli he once had here.

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Our server came to our table and things got underway.  I wouldn’t really describe our interactions with this individual as the best, but it wasn’t the worst either.  At this point, I’ve been watching a show that Steakman keeps talking about and that was weighing heavily on my mind since it specializes in restaurant service.  I won’t get into it now, because that is a post on its own.  To sum things up, we were kept waiting a lot.

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Little things, such as filling up water, seemed to be on the bottom of the list.  They have specific people assigned to the task of bringing bread to tables, but those people aren’t anywhere to be found when it comes to filling water.  My glass of water had to last me nearly 2 hours before it was filled up again, despite asking for it.  That’s something that didn’t sit well with me, especially with the ambitious ordering and eating plan I had in mind.

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Now, I was a little picky on service for an instant, but that was probably the only thing I could complain about.  When you’re sitting in a Portovino, it’s like you’re in the midst of a fine dining establishment without really crossing that line.  Case in point, if you’re interested in ordering something like a steak, they bring out all the various cuts of meat to your table for your inspection.  There are very many nickel and dime places that do that.  So, that’s the kind of thing that sets you apart.

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In doing my research of the extensive menu online, I came up with a very ambitious plan and attack strategy.  Normally, I would hold back a bit, but here, I saw too many items that I just had to try.  I’m starting to really like going to Italian restaurants and it goes beyond wanting pizza or pasta.  The availability of certain appetizers has pulled me in and I’ve grown to really like a few dishes.

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Caesar Salad

For this occasion, Steakman was joined by his girlfriend and they started off the meal with what is becoming their customary Caesar salad.

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Arancini

For my side dish, I went with the arancini.  Arancini are balls of risotto and cheese.  Most Italian appetizers contain cheese, so it doesn’t take much to be appealing.  This is going to be my fourth time trying them.

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Since we were all in a sharing mood, everyone at the table got a shot at these.  At first, they seemed a little bland.  You really needed the sauce to kick things up a notch.  What was really nice was the inclusion of cheese.  It was a good effort and a fitting way to kick things off.

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Fries

Steakman and his partner shared a side dish of fries.  What is really notable about them is their size.  I really wanted to try some and I was offered some, but my ambitious plan needed to keep room in my stomach.

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Beef Tartar

This was Steakman’s partner’s main dish and one of the very few items I didn’t try.

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Polpette

In the second volley of my four point plan, I picked not one, but two side dishes that would accompany my main dish.  At this point, I didn’t really care about the price tag, all I wanted was what really appealed to me.  The first side dish that came up were polpette, or more affectionally known as meatballs.

The meatballs were quite easy to eat.  The only obstruction to that ease was the fact that they did break apart rather easier.  This forced me to scoop up the loose pieces of meat with my fork.  It was a nuisance, but not one that would stop me from ordering them again.  I wasn’t the only one to enjoy the side dish, as Steakman made good use of the remaining sauce to amplify his bread and main dish.

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Patate Yukon Gold Pure Con Aglio Arrostito

Don’t let the lengthy name fool you, these are your classic mashed potatoes.  With its arrival to the table as my second side dish, you could already tell that this was a home run.  With Steakman’s stamp of approval, I wasn’t disappointed at all with this pile of mashed goodness.  One of my dreams is to have an entire meal of just mashed potatoes.  Then again, that would be silly.

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Pancetta Affumicato

This pizza contains mozzarella, fresh basil, and pancetta.

For the third and most important part of the plan, it was time for the main course.  Anyone who knows even the littlest things about me will know that I can’t really turn down bacon.  This pizza offers the Italian version of bacon and that’s always fine by me. 

For the third time in the span of two months, I was ready and willing to see how this version fared compared to those that came before it.  Even though he’s not a big fan of the bacon, Steakman went along with me and ordered the same pizza.  The last time we had pizza at the same place, he was burnt a bit and we didn’t want history repeating itself.  Before ordering, he made it a point to mention which issues he didn’t want coming up in the pizza.

From the second the pizza was placed down on the table, I had a good feeling.  First of all, I found that the placement of pancetta was quite unique, as I never seen it done that way before.  Normally, I would scoff at having all the meat bunched up, but this was different.  Each bite contained the right combination of all the elements, which makes a pizza worth having.

As I was picking up my first slice, because I never eat pizza with utensils, I took the time to take a quick look on the bottom.  For me, that’s a bit of a gauge to see what I was dealing with.  The pizza was cooked nicely from this angle.  None of the bottom of the pizza was overcooked and we were rolling.

What was really nice was that this pizza was rather easy to eat.  Even if you’re picking up a slice, you’re not getting too messy or having grease running down everywhere.  Each bite has that equivalent mix of sauce, cheese, and meat.  The crust doesn’t put up a fight either.  It’s a strong product and one that I wouldn’t hesitate to have again.

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Cannoli

For dessert, Steakman ordered the cannoli.  For over a year, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this cannoli.  There may be better in Montreal, but Steakman swears that this was an awesome one.  During the meal, he asked if they were made in house and the answer went in that direction.  Apparently, they’re made in their West Island location and shipped to the various locations around the Greater Montreal Area.

The cannoli was probably the thing that I was the most curious about.  It’s been over year since I’ve heard of it and I was always wondering what this thing looked like.  I’ve seen other cannolis in the past, but this one takes the cake.  Part of it goes to the massive amount of chocolate chips.  Either way, it’s a product that really photogenic.  I even got a taste of it.  It wasn’t half bad.  The emphasis here is more on the chips, as they are the prominent force in the bite.  Since I’m more of a chocolate person, I can’t really make more of a judgement on that one.

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Chocolate Cake

To finish off my four part plan, I ordered my millionth chocolate cake of all time.  Now, at this point, I consumed a great deal of food, to the point where massive eater, Steakman, was blown away.  Either way, I just had to carry on and make that push to finish the cake.  The thing that stood out the most was just how heavy the cake was.  It was heavy in way that the chocolate hits you from every corner.  If you just went through a lot of food, the cake won’t do you many favors.  So, I’m not sure if it was the anchor in my stomach or the cake itself, but I was struggling.  Come to think of it, it wasn’t the cake.  The cake was pretty good, but you need to go at it with more of strategic plan.

Final Verdict

With a record tying price tag to this meal, I have to say that it was actually worth every nickel (since we’re phasing out pennies now).  When you go to Portovino, you get the semblance of Italian fine dining out of a chain restaurant setting.  My experience with the food really made me happy that I gave this particular chain a chance.  I can’t wait to go back to try some of the other items that I couldn’t have.

Portovino on Urbanspoon

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