In five weeks time, Mike Wallau has transformed Mike's Cafe, into a rustic Italian restaurant featuring farm-to-table food, much of it grown organically.
Now called Portola Kitchen, the restaurant, located in the Ladera Country Shopper, sports a new look, along with a new menu. The decor features lots of reclaimed wood, fawn-colored upholstery, and handsome handmade black metal light fixtures. Mr. Wallau even tore out the tile floor, replacing it with trendy painted concrete.
"We want it to look like a rustic Italian barn," says Mr. Wallau. A very nicely finished barn, that is.
Executive chef Guillaume Bienaime presides over the kitchen. A graduate of Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts in Providence, Rhode Island, he is the former chef at Marche in Menlo Park. "I love it up here," he says of his new locale.
The menu features a large selection of Italian food "all made from scratch." The dinner menu offers such appetizers as a terrine of chicken liver with red onion marmalade and a caprese salad of heirloom tomatoes, burrata and basil. There are several pizza selections. The house-made pasta includes a saffron fusilli with lamb ragu, spaghetti vongole, and a delicately flavored ricotta ravioli with mushroom, corn, lemon and chervil.
Recent "mains" were veal scaloppini, chicken rosemary sausage with polenta, and grilled skirt steak with farro risotto. Entrees ranged from $14 for risotto to $24 for king salmon.
Portola Kitchen has a full bar and is featuring Italian as well as California wines. There are eight wines on tap, including Fogarty cabernet sauvignon 2010.
The only item on the lunch menu from earlier days is a BLT ($10); however, Mr. Wallau says customers have been asking him about including a burger. And he's listening. "We never forget that we are a neighborhood restaurant," he says.