Portofino: An East End Gem

The East End has long been a place of sanctuary when residents of Grand Cayman need to escape the crowds, rush and over-development of George Town.

Portofino coconut jumbo shrimp

Portofino coconut jumbo shrimp with apricot and mango sauce. Photo: James Dimond

And there is perhaps no better escape than to the ocean deck of Portofino Restaurant, where, for a few hours, one can lose all orientation of where they are.

From the idyllic ‘wreck view’ decking, diners can catch a glimpse of the remains of the American cargo Ship, the Liberty, which ran aground on the East End reef in 1962.

At night, watch the moon light up the bay, and keep your eyes peeled for the odd shooting star.

Managed by Dhanasekar Sambasivam – or Sekar as everyone knows him – the restaurant took its time to rebound after being near obliterated by Hurricane Ivan, buts it is now back at its best game.

As it long has, the restaurant menu’s predominant emphasis remains proudly fixed on quality Italian cum Caribbean fare.

Recently though, it has sought to expand on this with a new range of Indian dishes – including a Tuesday night Indian special – that would be hard to rival in Cayman, or anywhere in the world for that matter.

With a number of the restaurant’s chef’s hailing from the Subcontinent, it may be a wonder to some why they didn’t embark upon this path earlier.

The three-course Tuesday night special changes from week to week, but keep your eye out for an excellent Hyderabadi style biryani, chicken tikka masala, seafood, pork and chicken vindaloo’s, the vegetable samosa’s with mint chutney, as well as some great Indian deserts, including the carrot halwa.

If you would prefer to stick to what Portofino has always prided itself on – quality Italian – then that option is always open too. Sekar, who was originally trained as a pastry chef, says you can’t go wrong with Lobster prepared the Chef’s way, perhaps the establishment’s most renowned dish (see recipe below).

As an appetizer, the coconut jumbo shrimp, which comes with a mango and apricot sauce, is a good option.

The baked seafood Portofino pasta is also an excellent choice. Featuring lobster, jumbo shrimp and jumbo scallops, the meal is presented with mashed potato.

For desert, there are many options (including some excellent sweet Indian dishes), but it is difficult to fault the New York baked Cheese Cake (see recipe below).

From the expansive wine list, try the Ruffino Chianti Classico Ducale, its compatriot, the Santa Margarita Pinot Gringo or the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand.

No Italian would be complete without a proper coffee – Portofino serves Lavazza coffee, a staple of many Italian restaurants (and a necessity of life to some) worldwide.

And if you are in the East End on a Sunday drive, make sure to drop in for their Sunday Buffet. With Italian, Caribbean and Indian options being cooked up on mobile cooking stations on the restaurant floor, it always ensures that seating is at a premium, both inside and out.

To make a reservation, call Portofino’s on 947-2700.

From the Portofino menu

Lobster Prepared the Chef’s way

Take fresh chunks of Caribbean Lobster, dip in a batter of beaten eggs, a few pinches of salt, fresh chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

At a medium heat, shallow fry lobster in a fry-pan with butter until golden brown on both sides.

Cook Lobster in oven warmed to 325 °F for about five minutes, or until cooked through.

Portofino Lobster Sauce
In a fry-pan, melt a touch of butter and add two chopped shallots.

In a separate fry-pan reduce two cups of chardonnay.

Add reduced Chardonnay and one dollop of heavy cream to the saucepan containing butter and shallots. Boil for one to two minutes.

Add sliced champignon mushrooms and chunks of fresh plum tomato. Boil for another one to two minutes until mixture reduces to a sauce consistency. Add salt and pepper to sauce.

Serve sauce over Lobster. Garnish with parsley and fresh asparagus.

New York Baked Cheese Cake

(Makes 1 cake / 14 slices)

2 1/2 LB Dixie Fresh Crème Cheese

8 Whole Eggs

500g sugar

50g sour crème

2 tbs fresh squeezed Lemon juice

2 tbs Lemon Zest (peeled and chopped)

2 tbs vanilla essence

In a 10-inch spring fry pan, mix cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.

Add eggs one by one while stirring.

Add vanilla essence, lemon juice, lemon zest and sour cream.

Bake cheese cake at 350 °F for 35 minutes.

Add topping of choice, and summer fruits (e.g. strawberry or blueberry).

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