Porteño, Surry Hills

Porteno, Surry Hills

Oh hai chefs, we see you!

An up-close and personal view of chefs Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate at work at the pass is just one of the many things I loved about our visit to Porteño.

Sometime in June, TFP, J and I got to work on our list, the places in Sydney we knew we had to visit.

One of the places that made the list was Porteño, where the meat is flame-grilled, the drinks are well mixed, and your servers decked out in their finest fifties’ finery.

Our blogger friends Craig and Caroline were more than happy to help us round out our numbers, bringing our number to five – the magical minimum number required for a booking at this usually packed out restaurant. Two seatings are available – 6.00 to 8.30pm, and 9.00pm to close.

My spidey sense told me that booking the first seating was the best option, for a number of reasons:

  • The food bloggers would need as much natural light as possible for better shots
  • We’d be walking around a lot, and therefore, would be hungry earlier than usual
  • And the most important question: what if they ran out of what we wanted before the second seating?
As we were seated in the busy restaurant just after six, I mentally high-fived past-Juji. Once again, that food blogger spidey sense paid off!

Porteno, Surry Hills

House baked bread, olive oil and pork pate, $2 per head

We each started with a house baked bread roll, which comes with a side of pork pate and fruity olive oil.

Porteno, Surry Hills

The unctuous pork pate is creamy and better than any butter I could hope for. It’s worth a try, even if you’re not usually a pate fan – it’s light, yet rich and very very moreish.

Porteno, Surry Hills

One of my favourite summer drinks, Pimm’s, is on the menu, and arrives topped up with lemonade and served over lots of ice. It’s one of those drinks I wish was available in more places – it’s fantastic with practically anything!

Porteno, Surry Hills

Calamares Asado, BBQ Calamari with Chickpea Sofrito,
Preserved Lemon & Watercress, $24

J and Craig are both keen to try the Calamares Asado, and I’m very happy to dig into the dish when it arrives.

Porteno, Surry Hills

The tendrils of squid are beautifully tender, with not a hint of rubber in sight.

There’s a zingy aroma from the preserved lemon, and we’re all pleasantly surprised by the chickpeas, which have been tossed in a blend of fragrant spices.

I love the crisp, fresh watercress, which is a favourite of mine, but usually absent from my own cooking and when I eat out.

Porteno, Surry Hills

As we eat we’re treated to a fireside view of the asado, the pit filled with ironbark embers which roasts the restaurant’s famous pork and lamb to tender perfection.

Porteno, Surry Hills

Chimichurri, Argentina’s famous herb-laden sauce, and Criolla, an onion and capsicum salsa, arrive in preparation for our meaty bounty.

Porteno, Surry Hills

Cordero a la Cruz, 8-hour wood fired milk-fed Mirrool Creek Lamb, $42

First to join us is the lamb, which is so tender it hardly warrants a knife and fork. There’s shards of crispy skin which we all enjoy. It’s crunchy and salty – crumbling away on my tongue.

Porteno, Surry Hills

Confession: I don’t usually like lamb. And I certainly never order it in a restaurant. But my dining partners insisted and I was glad they did – this was amazing! If all lamb was as tender and fragrant as this, I’d rewrite my no lamb policy.

Porteno, Surry Hills

Chanchito a la Cruz, 8-hour woodfired pig, $44

Oh em gee. Here it is. Here’s what I came for. The wood fired pork. The promise of crunchy tiles of crackling skin and the tender meat rippled with creamy white fat, was torturing me for a full six months after I made the reservation.

Porteno, Surry Hills

I confess, I was a little sad to have to share. Luckily for me, after the last crunch of the crackle, we could set to work nibbling on the roasted ribs, which had been thoughtfully presented with the rest of the meat :)

Porteno, Surry Hills

Tira de Asado, O’Connor grass fed Angus beef short ribs, $30

Short ribs are a favourite cut of mine – something I order whenever I can, especially at Korean barbecue joints. I love the short ribs for their rich beefy flavour, something which can be lacking in other favoured cuts like fillet and sirloin. 

Porteño’s short ribs certainly delivered on flavour – it was definitely enhanced by the smoke of the wood-burning grill. But unfortunately we all found this a little tough, making it difficult to enjoy the fantastic flavour of the beef.

Porteno, Surry Hills

Repollitos de Brusela Frito, crispy fried Brussels sprouts with lentils and mint, $14

If you’re a vegetarian, or heaven forbid, a vegan, then I’m sorry, but I don’t think Porteño is the restaurant for you.

Unless of course, you order these incredible Brussels sprouts – one of the most delicious incarnations of this vegetable I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

This much hated Brassica is transformed at Porteño – deep fried until the leaves are crisp (amping their flavour up to 150%) and tossed with plump lentils and mint.

This dish knocks all other Brussels sprouts out of the park.

Porteno, Surry Hills

Polenta a la Tabla, polenta with Provolone cheese, $14

The Polenta a la Tabla is creamy and smooth. It almost seems light, but don’t let it fool you! The creaminess from the Provolone cheese makes this a decadent side dish, and its spiked with a generous drizzle of Chimichurri, which I hear is the usual accompaniment for this cheese in parts of South America.

Porteno, Surry Hills

Our dishes are quickly cleared and we begin to contemplate dessert while still ogling the roasted meats on offer…

Porteno, Surry Hills

Postre Chaja, South American style Pavlova, $14

My favourite from the desserts we tried was the Postre Chaja, a meringue topped dessert featuring layers of soft sponge cake, creamy custard, sweet mango, and a surprising salted peanut caramel.

It’s like no other Pavlova I’ve ever tried, but easily one of the best desserts I had in Sydney. Magnificent!

Porteno, Surry Hills

Piña Colada spider, pineapple soda and coconut-rum ice cream, $14

Neither J nor Craig could go past the Piña Colada spider, which reminded me very much of its namesake cocktail.

The frothy icecream layer was a blast from the past reminding me how much I used to love making lemonade and even orange (Fanta) spiders as a kid!

Porteno, Surry Hills

Leche Quemada, burnt milk custard with orange jam and chocolate ice cream, $14

Caroline went for the Leche Quemada, which featured a deeply caramelised custard over a tart orange jam (reminded me of marmalade). The creamy chocolate ice cream and the crunchy sugared popcorn added to the Jaffa effect of this dessert, satisfying the need for creamy chocolate and a sugary crunch.

Porteno, Surry Hills

As I rolled out of Porteño, I was a little sad to leave, knowing it would be some time before we could visit again. It was lovely to share such a memorable meal with our new friends.

Any future trips to Sydney will definitely mean a return to Porteño – but to secure a table, I’ll most definitely need a posse. Any takers? :P

Porteño on Urbanspoon

For the full menu and reservations, visit Porteño’s website

Read about our other food adventures in Sydney

13 thoughts on “Porteño, Surry Hills

  1. Craig @ Damn Fine Food

    Well I tell you what. When you’re in Sydney next, you’ll NEVER have to worry about extras to get to that elusive 5. We’ll always be willing to go to Porteño.

    That was indeed a wonderful meal, and it brings back memories of a great meal at a great restaurant, with great friends.

    Your spidey sense certainly did pay off. Not only did your photos turn out great because of the abundant natural light for most of the visit, but booking us into the earlier sitting allowed us the pick of the meats. I haven’t experienced it, but I’m almost convinced that the later sitting will not get as good a selection from the BBQ pit.

  2. Row

    Hee, love the look of that pork! The skin must have been so crispy! Also digging the leche quemada… it looks decadent! I live far away (*cough*Canada*cough), but if I ever get to Sydney, save a seat for me! :)

  3. Jacqui

    Holy crap. Im going. I dunno when, I dunno when Ill get to Sydney but when I do, this will be the place to go!! Look amazing. S will be beside himself lol

  4. Pingback: Mad Spuds Cafe, Surry Hills | Juji Chews

  5. Christian Rene Friborg

    There is a Philippine version of Chanchito a la Cruz, called lechon. And it tastes amazing! You should come to the Philippines and try their delicacies!

    1. jujichews Post author

      I love lechon, Christian! There’s a local restaurant here called Manila, where I’ve tried it. Though I would love to sample the real thing in the Philippines one day too! 😄

  6. Pingback: 2012: a year of Juji Chews in pictures (and posts) | Juji Chews

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