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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Chimichurri, Argentina’s famous herb-laden sauce, and Criolla, an onion and capsicum salsa, arrive in preparation for our meaty bounty.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Our dishes are quickly cleared and we begin to contemplate dessert while still ogling the roasted meats on offer…
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!
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!
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.
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?
For the full menu and reservations, visit Porteño’s website
Read about our other food adventures in Sydney
- Sydney day 1: BBQ King, Haymarket
- Sydney day 1: Via del Corso, Westfield Sydney
- Sydney day 1: Spiedo Bar and Restaurant, Westfield Sydney
- Sydney day 2: Bills, Surry Hills
- Sydney day 2: Becasse Bakery, Westfield Sydney
- Sydney day 2: Cafe Ish, Surry Hills
- Sydney day 2: Emperor’s Puffs, Chinatown
- Sydney day 2: Chat Thai, Haymarket
- Sydney day 3: Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills
- Sydney day 3: Cafe Cre Asion, Sydney CBD
- Sydney day 3: Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine, Concord
- Sydney day 4: The Rocks Cafe, The Rocks
- Sydney day 4: Din Tai Fung, World Square
- Sydney day 4: The Star, Pyrmont
- Sydney day 4: Sydney Madang, Sydney CBD
- Sydney day 5: Izakaya Fujiyama, Surry Hills
- Sydney day 5: Barby’s Bakery, Paddy’s Markets, Haymarket
- Sydney day 5: Sassy’s Red, Westfield Sydney
- Sydney day 6: Lumiere Cafe and Patisserie, Surry Hills
- Sydney day 6: Things I Love Thursday – Cabramatta Edition!