A Hidden Culinary Gem
Bean ragout, honey glazed pork & good service: the things that won me over at the Casino Restaurant at Portomaso.
When I was asked to try out the Casino Restaurant at Portomaso, the first thing that went through my mind was:
“Wait, there’s a restaurant there?”
Having been to the Casino at Portomaso once before for the wonderful Michael Kors party – at which I tried my hand at gambling and failed rather miserably –
I was quite surprised to have missed the restaurant, particularly since I’m quite the glutton.
Located on the left-hand side once you go through reception – only people over 25 years of age (or 18, if you have a foreign passport) are allowed in – the restaurant is a little gem that’s not easy to come across. And as I found out four courses later, it’s quite a shame.
Kicking off the meal with a Capesante al Ragu’ (€12.50) for me and the Tortino con Farmaggio di Capra e Fichi (€10) for Jo (Caruana, who accompanied me on the night), it was quite clear that Chef Chris knew exactly what he was doing. The depth of flavour of the bean ragout in the Capesante truly accentuated the flavours of the scallops; while the Tortino was a perfect mix of dairy, nuts and fruit – an almost medieval dish making the most of the flavours at hand.
Our second dish came enclosed in foil wrapping – a surprise that held another surprise within: Vongole all Carotoccio (€11). The whiff of freshly-made pasta once we opened the parcel was delicious. And I still can’t decide what was better: the gorgeous smell of fresh herbs or the way the clams melted in our mouths.
Being rather full by this point – the portions are quite big! – we decided to take a quick break before our mains; and they were worth the wait! Mine was the Contro Filetto di Maiale (€18) – pieces of honey glazed pork loin with caramelised apple and crispy pancetta. Earthy and sweet, it really plays on the senses and, more than anything, feels like a dish that’s genuinely good for you.
Jo had the Filetto di Salmone (€19), dressed with a wholegrain mustard sauce and topped with a poached egg. Truly well cooked – a feat not managed by many Maltese restaurants – the salmon was soft and fluffy, and the taste of the mustard was strong but not overpowering. A real treat!
We ended our meal with a Tiramisu (€6) and a Crema Catalana (€6), both super tasty. Having said that, the Crema Catalana – due to its layer of caramel at the top – proved to be a tad too sweet after such a big meal. The Tiramisu, however, was deliciously creamy, and I must say that a few days on, I’m still regretting not having enough space in my tummy to finish it!
As anyone who knows me knows, my biggest pet peeve is bad service at a restaurant. I believe that when someone sits down to have a meal, he or she should be treated with respect. Thankfully, the service, provided by Chantelle and Daniel, was like that, and both Jo and I were very happy with it!
They smiled and said ‘good night’; they topped up our glasses and noticed when we were done – they were attentive and they won us over.
The new management, made up of manager Marley Grech & Head Chef David, is definitely doing a great job with the Casino Restaurant at Portomaso, and you should really try it out! The food is good and genuine; the service, nice and friendly. The location is quite central, although the fact that you can’t go with children – or even friends who have not turned 25 yet – is a bit of a bummer. Nevertheless, if you’re up for a child-free, adult-only evening, then this is the place to have it! And you can always complete your evening with a quick whizz on the roulette wheel once you’re done.