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Opinion: Burnaby’s next great restaurant has officially arrived

Portobello has opened on Hastings in the Heights

It’s nobody’s dream to open a business or move locations in the middle of a global pandemic.

But sometimes you do what you have to do.

While some have ended up cancelling plans to open restaurants in Burnaby – such as Chef Tony nixing a large new eatery at Metropolis at Metrotown – others have managed to do so.

The latest is the recent opening of Portobello Restaurant on Hastings Street near Gilmore in Burnaby Heights. Through no fault of its own, Portobello ended up leaving the Vancouver location it had inhabited for the past 14 years.

A chance conversation with someone at Heights institution Cioffi’s deli led the owner to discover that the old Pear Tree restaurant had closed up and the space was now available.

Sometimes things just happen like that.

Now the Heights has another Italian restaurant to add a real foodie’s paradise that runs from Thai to Vietnamese to Greek to Australian meat pies.

The Heights has a stellar roster of Italian restaurants and Portobello fits in nicely. Some people, of course, only associated Italian food with pizza and pasta – which are awesome – but Portobello is more about fine dining with a definite focus on fresh ingredients.

As soon as I heard about Portobello opening, I dropped by to check it out.

I kicked things off with an appetizer of burrata cheese with arugula, tomatoes and a thick, aged balsamic. Burrata is one of my all-time favourite cheese. It’s soft and delicate and just pairs so well with juicy tomatoes.

Next up, I had sautéed squid in a mildly spicy tomato sauce. I’m a huge squid/calamari fan, but I prefer it grilled or sautéed instead of battered and deep-fried. There are two problems with this, of course. One is that few chefs know how to cook it this way without turning it into rubber bands and two, few places serve it without deep-frying it. My dish was loaded with perfectly cooked squid.

My entrée was a fine seafood risotto and I finished things off with a vanilla panna cotta with a rhubarb compote that’s made in-house.

I feel like the city’s next great restaurant has arrived and will be going back.

With my mask on, of course.

DISCLAIMER: I have not been compensated in any way for writing about this restaurant. They didn’t even know I was coming.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.