Narise Kamber Reviews… La Porta
La Porta restaurant is the latest addition to the culinary scene in Bahrain. Located in the heart of Manama souq (market) in Bab Al Bahrain mall, La Porta is an undiscovered gem in the most unexpected location.
I met up with the owner of La Porta restaurant, Dr. Khalid Abdulaziz who is a Surgeon and Urologist by day and an Italian cuisine aficionado and entrepreneur by night. He co-owns the restaurant with his sweet wife and banker, Lamees Aman. This hardworking duo is evidently very passionate about giving their customers the best quality food with the finest ingredients. The whole idea behind starting this venture was the need to create more culinary concepts on the island that serve authentic Italian cuisine made by Italians, and serve wholesome food with reasonable prices, which would encourage more people to visit the souq area.
My meal started with La Porta lemonade, a refreshing drink made with lime, passion fruit, lemongrass, vanilla syrup, and soda. It is unique to see five kinds of freshly made lemonade drinks in one menu for example, Santiago lemonade, strawberry and kiwi lemonade, lime mint lemonade and Arabian lemonade. My favourite out of all of them was the Arabian lemonade, flavoured with cardamom, mint and pineapple.
I started the food tasting with a few classic starters, the caprese salad and parmigiana melanzane. The salad was lovely as it was made with fresh mozzarella and local tomatoes, but the parmigiana melanzane was out of this world! I have tried this dish in many restaurants around the world but I never had one so good. This dish translates to Eggplant Parmesan, which is a southern Italian dish made with shallow fried eggplant covered with cheese and tomato sauce then baked. The eggplant was soft, the cheese subtle and the tomato slightly scorched. It is simply comfort food perfection. There are other items from the starter menu to choose from such as bruschetta, bresaola, involtini (eggplant rolls filled with mozzarella cheese), and arancini di riso (crispy fried rice balls with Bolognese sauce). There is also a selection of salads and soups to choose from such as seafood salad, rocket and walnut salad, tuna avocado salad, minestrone soup, tomato soup and many more.
The pizzas in La Porta are exceptional as they are made in a wood oven using fresh ingredients. Thin crispy crusts and tomato sauce prepared in an authentic Italian style, makes La Porta’s pizzas unique and incredibly delicious. There is a large variety to choose from such as Margherita, diavola, Hawaii, Frutti di Mare (seafood), Tonno e Cipolla (tuna and onion), Vegetariana, and chicken pizza. In this tasting I tried the Quattro Fromaggi, which is the four-cheese pizza, made with Gorgonzola, emmental, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Yet my personal favourite is the Napoli made with anchovies, tomato sauce, garlic and oregano.
As my work office is located very close to La Porta, my children expect me to bring home a pizza every time I pass by Bab Al Bahrain mall since this is their favourite pizza place on the island. There is a new pizza that will be featured on the menu soon and it is La Porta pizza made with pesto, chicken, black olives and mozzarella and I can’t wait to try it.
I also met up with chef Modestino, the young and ambitious man from Napoli who is responsible for all the good food I was sampling. He expressed how it was so important to stay authentic and serve Italian cuisine that is as close to being in Italy as possible. Chef Modestino makes all the bread and pasta served in the restaurant from scratch: the penne, ravioli, gnoochi, spaghetti, fettuccini, lasagna ,focaccia etc – they are all made in house. For the pasta I had the ravioli, which tasted like luscious, doughy pillows of ricotta and spinach in a lemony and creamy tomato sauce. I also had the lasagne and the spaghetti Bolognese, and unsurprisingly both tasted excellent. I have already planned to try the other pastas in my next visit! I will definitely try the Penne Arrabiatta, the Aglio Olio Peperoncino (olive oil, garlic, red chili) pasta, the Spaghetti Scammaro (anchovies, raisins, pine nuts), the Chicken Alfredo, the gnocchi and the cannelloni. I might not try it all in one go but since I work nearby I will give myself a treat every once in a while because their food is truly a treat!
There is also a selection of risottos to choose from, Risotto Milanese (with saffron), Risotto Frutti di Mare (with seafood), and Risotto Pollo Verdure (with chicken and vegetables).
For the meat and chicken main dishes there is a choice between the char-grilled beef fillet (Fileto al a Griglia), chicken Milanese, Parmesan chicken, and the braised duck (Tagliata di Antara). From the fish menu you have the pan-fried hammour, Frittura di Pesce (prawn and squid) and the Salmon Genovese. Now for the last dish I probably need to write another review. I have rarely tasted a salmon dish so perfect. Salmon cooked to perfection on a bed of fragrant rice with pesto-roasted vegetables. This dish is both, palate satisfying and filling. So even the healthy crowd – that doesn’t do carb-laden dishes – have no excuse not to come to an Italian restaurant like La Porta and try the heart-healthy items.
Now on to another important part of the meal: the dessert. La Porta’s dessert menu has many choices such as panna cotta, tiramisu (served in a jar), crème caramel, delizia al limone (lemon cake), tronchetto alla Nutella (Nutella filled cake) and cannoli alla Sicilliana.
So where do I start from? First of all let me explain what is a cannoli. This is an Italian pastry coming from the region of Sicily and it means ‘little tube’. A cannolo, which is the singular of cannoli is a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough filled with a sweet ricotta creamy filling. The creamy filling is usually flavoured with vanilla, orange flower water, or cinnamon. And the open end of the pastry is usually dotted with chopped nuts or chocolate pieces. There’s a story that says cannolis have been traced to the Arabs during their reign of the Emirate of Sicily and possibly the origin of the word is derived directly from qanawat (Arabic for tunnels) – ganawat is deep-fried, dough tubes filled with various sweets that were very popular in the Islamic world at that time. La Porta’s cannolis are the freshest on the island, as they are made in house. My favourite dessert at La Porta (and that is a difficult choice) is the panna cotta. I am not a panna cotta fan in general but this is something else, certainly one of the best I ever tried. Sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and flavoured with vanilla seeds, this panna cotta is even more special with its accompaniment of freshly made strawberry jam.
The dining area feels comfortable and airy because of the mall’s high ceiling. The rustic dark wood tables surrounded by tall plants contrasts nicely with the white walls. And the beautiful display counter contains wooden boards topped with fresh pasta ingredients such as whole eggs and flour splatter with cherry tomatoes and pesto jars. There are stacks of freshly made cookies and tiramisu mason jars. The corner side of the counter has a crepe-making stand where you can get freshly made crepes with different fillings (Do try the Nutella crepe!). The crepes are usually made by everyone’s favourite waiter at La Porta, Bourhen – the kind and helpful Tunisian who will greet you with his warm smile every time you visit the restaurant.
I highly recommend that you visit this small piece of Italy in the middle of Bahrain souk, you will find yourself becoming a repeat customer of La Porta restaurant.
For more information:
Thursday and Friday 8am-10pm
Saturday to Tuesday 10am-10pm
(00973) 1721 0201
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