Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Porteño, Surry Hills

Hola Amigos. When the year old Porteno only recently got new restaurant of the year and 2 chef hats by GFG, with a bar of the year just upstairs to boot, and the fact that part of the team behind one of my most favourite restaurants (Bodega) run the place, I knew I had to try it. But Spanish food (or more specifically Argentinean food) isn't really Spanish food unless you bring company along to share it with, so I managed to round up a couple of high school mates under the promise of relatively cheap good food. And that it did deliver. A warm thanks to the lovely S for being our photographer of the night.

Given previous warning of the nightmare that is the Porteno seating plan, I was sure to book 2 weeks in advanced as well as come 20 minutes earlier. Excited much. When people say the place packs quickly, it really does, all 120 seats of it within 20 minutes of opening. We entered the restaurant, immediately met with smoky charcoal roasting smells, dim lighting and a warm hostess.

Quickly whisked to our seats, menus were handed but supposedly it was all up to me to decide what we all should have. So while blindly choosing away, the loud mariachi music and spirited buzz about the place inspired an interesting conversation with the others including and not limited to the topics : the origins of swear words, the reason why Asians break down alcohol better and the associations between hiccups and constipation I think? Long night... Dear readers, that is a story for another day. The obvious advantage with eating with lots of friends is the amount of sharing that goes on. The disadvantage would be that with so much food going on, your memory tends to start getting woozy and you start forgetting what things taste afterwards. So please do accept my some what brief descriptions of some dishes.
House Baked Bread with Olive Oil & Pork Pate $2 pp
I've always made it known I love butter more than olive oil, but the oil dip turned out to be quite pleasant and fruity and was really enjoyable. However the bread had a rather floury texture and the liver from which the pate was presumably made from gave out a rather disagreeable metallic taste. The other diners seemed love it, however, for it incredible richness, softness and easy spreadability.

Beef Empanada $4 each
Broccoli and Ricotta Empanada $4 each

At 4 dollars each, they were admittedly on the pricy side and the sealing of the empanada looked like a rushed job. However, cracking into the blistered and dry pastry of the beef empanada revealed a chunky filling of olives, eggs and saucy beef mince, you were instantly at bliss, ready to weather through the surprisingly cold spring day. We had a pescatarian among us and i'm glad we did, the few broccoli empanadas I ordered for her had to be much better. Cracking it open reveals a such a brilliant combination of broccoli surrounded by luscious folds of creamy ricotta.

Grilled Tuna with Asparagus and Charred Jalapeño & Garlic Dressing $22
This dish seemed like a huge table favourite and it was one of mine. Asparagus and Jalapeno were young and tender, grilled marvelously, imparting a wonderful smokiness and the garlic sauce underneath provided a nice flavour hit. Searing of tuna actually gave an interesting two textures, in the middle with the sashimi and the outside with the cooked.

BBQ Eggplant, Peppers, Cauliflower with Tahini & Quail Egg $18
Seems like a pizza but it's not. At least I don't think it was. I had quite a fun time dividing up this dish. Such a good flavour combination with soft and smoky bell peppers and spiced cauliflower dressed with nutty tahini on top of a crusty base. Hits of parsley and mint injected the dish with a bit of freshness.

Citrus Marinated Seafood with Cucumber, Grapefruit and Yellow Chilli Paste $24
This dish reminded me alot of the fish fingers I had at Bodega with the kingfish ceviche and similar flavour profile. Not that that's a bad thing because I love it. The fresh mixed seafood gave many out interesting textures boosted up with the sauce that gave a slight kick and balances the acidity that didn't overpower. Cucumber and grapefruit reinforced the freshness and overall, was one of my favourites of the night.

8 hour Woodfired Free Range Lamb $42
That 8 hour lamb was. Truly. Glorious. Butterflied out onto a cross, fire roasting away in the asador ready to be set upon by hungry carnivores, it comes generously served, piled up, with shards of crisp skin jutting out and a bone or two to gnaw on. Laced with copious amounts of fat, the meat was sublime: salty and melting and had diners fighting over the last pieces. In all honesty though, I didn't really detect the wood smoke that was so prevalent when I walked into the restaurant. However it may have been just me, overwhelmed by everything else beautiful about the lamb.

Chimichurri, Criolla Salsa
Affectionately known as choo-choo sauce and choo-choo sauce #2, these sauces sat on our table at the beginning of the night as we sat in bewilderment at what to use it for. As the meats came out later on plainly served on a board, I realized it was necessary to spike the meats with the sauce as a wonderful herby touch.
Crispy Fried Brussel Sprouts with Lentils and Mint $14
When in doubt, deep fry it. And that certainly did the trick with the brussel sprouts. A gorgeous nutty taste resulted from it.
Polenta with Provolone Cheese $14
First time I've ever tried polenta and it is irresistible, moreish, rich and incredibly decadent. Spoonful after spoonful, the desire for more was unrelenting yet admittedly it became sickening after a while. But I kept going. It was that good.
O’Connor Grass Fed Angus Beef Short Ribs $30
I found these ribs delicious yet unremarkable, perhaps a tad overshadowed by the far more amazing 8 hour Lamb. They were slightly chewy and I would maybe consider a more marbled cut next time.

Shaved Fennel Salad with Apricot, Black Olives and Amontillado Dressing $12
My friends commented on how this dish tasted very medicinal, however I found this dish necessary as the strong acidic bite and freshness cut through all the heaviness encountered in the meaty mains.

And then came the onslaught of sweets. There's enough sugar in one of these dishes to last multiple crazed children going through the Easter long weekends.

Burnt Milk Custard with Orange Jam & Chocolate Ice Cream $14
There was nothing remarkable about this dish, however the brulee custard was a nice touch, and nothing's more exciting than having the first crack. The ice cream was rather ordinary and reminded me of paddlepop ice creams.

With Coffee Sauce and Peanut Butter Ice Cream $14
I seriously love my coffee, I live on like 8 cups a week but that sauce was enough to put that to shame. It's incredible bitterness turned the other diners off. However, cutting the fondant revealed it's rich, gooey, chocolatey centre and I love anything related to peanut butter so that ice cream was real winner.

South American Style Pavlova $14
Sweet again. But I loved this deconstructed version of pavlova. A sponge cake sandwiched layers of caramel and cooked fruit topped with pretty puffs of cream and shards of meringue jutting out. It's a really interesting concept and you soon forget the sweetness and the yumminess takes over. I, however, have never been much of a fan of cooked fruit as they reduce it to a texture similar to can fruit and you lose all the freshness. But that's just me.

Pineapple Soda & Coconut Rum Ice Cream $14
The drink had us wondering for a while on how we were going to share it. A nice refreshing balance to all the punchiness of the other sweets, the coconut and pineapple pieces floating around gave the drink a real boost in acidity and flavour.

The asador where 2 lambs and pigs roast away
Open kitchen

On the rare occasion that I've been to a 2 hatter, this was unlike any. But that was the thing with this place. There is nothing like it. All the diners commented on the wonderful ambiance it had and it was hard to disagree. Clear glass roofs, upbeat music, lack of table top covers to reveal a rustic, stable marble table, appropriate lighting, a horseshoe here and a mysterious cellar room there, twisting staircases, exposed stone walls and the very exciting architecture created a much more relaxed atmosphere. Porteno is loud, proud and very cool. And service was slicker than the waiters' quirky hairdos. Water cups were subtly filled nearly after every sip I took. The hostess, with her quirky Marilyn Monroe 50's haircut, was incredibly warm and amiable and food came out so fast, we contemplating a walk around the block for an hour before having dessert again. Honestly with friends along, no sweets or drinks, $30-$35 or less easily will leave you very full and that's the way it this place should be had, with lots of company and good conversation. We had an inspiring, exciting and spectacular night at Porteno. Until next time, 8 hour Suffolk Lamb.
Porteño on Urbanspoon


yum yum yum. Good work mysterious Mr C! sure did bring back the memories of the place!

Definately agree! This was very nicely written, I'm drooling all over again. An awesome blog :)

And hehe ally look at your profile:
finishing high school with an extraordinary
that's all i'm interested in

naww we were such naive teenagers :P

Once again, GREAT BLOG, I'll be sure to check this out whenever I need a good place to eat :)

- sadia

@Ally. Yum indeed. I like to keep my identity enigmatic. haha

@smilelikeme=). Absolutely, a very nice casual venue. Thanks for coming. Well worth a revisit.

OMG! I've never had lamb crackle! I've been wanting to visit this place for a while now. Nice review!

Hey thanks a lot. By far one of the stand out places of 2011, especially if you're a carnivore. Give it a visit!

The food looks great .. especially those dessert, I'm so dying to try them

Don't forget the lamb as well! That pavlova was brilliant but.

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No, we aren't the most amazing gastronomes or chefs. Heck, half our team doesn't even know how to cook... well. However, what we really love is eating. And lots of it. We enjoy that occasional freebie, filling up that craving for a midnight snack and finding a 20 in our pockets that we thought we never had, and using that as an excuse to go out eating. As we battle the ongoing war on uni student poverty, we'll bring you the most swoon worthy recounts of our latest foodie adventures.

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