Recently, I was particularly chuffed to have found an occasion for which dinner on a Monday night was appropriate; since my logic was that they surely couldn’t be that busy on a Monday evening.
|The parilla at Porteño, Cleveland Street, Surry Hills|
From the Bodega guys, Elvis Abrahanowicz, Ben Milgate and Joseph Valore, Porteño is an Argentinean grill restaurant that’s become a magnet for rave reviews and meat-induced swoons
The setting is just perfect – a large, airy, former house with sunken rooms, around-the-corner spaces and a courtyard feel – all decked out stylishly with a nod to Argentinean heritage and roots.
|The below-mentioned, all hard at work|
|Pan de casa - House baked bread with olive oil and pork pate|
It’s not easy to whittle down the choices from what I want, but we start on pan de casa - for one as I didn’t want to waste eating capacity on bread.
What I didn’t know was that this white, house-baked bread was sublime; a crunchy, floury outer and fluffy innards, perfect with the very citrusy olive oil, the rich and smooth porcine pate and even the eggplant starter.
|Berenjenas picante – Spiced eggplant|
But the flavour from the roasted vegetable was nothing short of sensational – enlivened with chilli and cumin, the robust flavours against the delicate flesh and intact skin made for a meal in itself, so intense and bang-on the flavours.
I couldn’t help but scrape the very last remnants of eggplant from the oil, and lick every bit from the tiny serving fork.
|Morcilla – Blood sausage with red peppers in garlic|
Porteño’s chunky morcilla isn’t quite spurting blood or anything, but it’s not that far from it as far as I'm concerned. A little crumbly and dotted with cubes of pork fat, the thickly sliced blood sausage reveals its all atop an appropriately-red roasted capsicum.
I manage a small taste of an edge that's free of fat cubes, especially with some of the super-sweet capsicum, but I don’t really manage a larger bit with a jelly-like fat cube. The capsicum, on the other hand, is delightfully roasted with an earthy smokiness that would be impossible to replicate on the home stovetop.
|Chanchito a la cruz – Woodfired suckling pig|
Firstly, the crackling. I’ve never seen pork skin/crackling so thin, and not bubbled and puffed but rather smooth (like the non-crunchy parts of Chinese roast pork crackling).
I picked up a shard of this smooth, burnished brown crackling, with very little fat on the underside, and tasted the most perfectly roasted, shatteringly crunchy pig skin ever.
|Woodfired suckling pig - lust-worthy|
So, maybe that’s not so appetising a description, but it was tender, moist, full of flavour on its own and hands-down the best roasted pork I’ve ever had.
|Repollitos de Brusela frito – Crispy fried Brussels sprouts with lentils and mint|
But at the first bite of the slightly crispened Brussels sprout, and I was a converted worshipper of the humble miniature cabbage. I think the key is the dressing that each and every sprout is dressed in: sweet, tangy and a fabulous match to the greenery.
The lentils were almost redundant except for the fact that I love lentils. These took on an almost meaty flavour; while the mint leaves throughout were necessary to freshen up the overall flavours.
|Postre chaja – Argentinean pavlova|
Looking like a neatly thrown-together melange of ingredients, I first see and devour bits of white meringue with fresh cream and cooked peaches, which look so much like the tinned stuff but I’m positive aren’t.
Digging deeper I hit jackpot with a thick river of gooey dulce de leche and peanuts – a winning combination as salty-sweet combinations can often be. The layers of delicate sponge partner well with the cream and peaches, but awkwardly with the caramelly-thick dulce de leche and crunchy nuts.
In all, I’m not sure all the dessert ingredients go together as well as everything else through the night did. Water was desperately needed to wash down the sugar overload though the staff seemed a little run off their feet for the full-house Monday night.
|The asado at the end of the night|
Happily clutching my foil-packed leftovers, I bid adiós to Porteño for now, leaving the premises as others were just arriving at the restaurant.
With the variety of the menu and the richness of a lot of the dishes, I’d say dining with a group of at least four is ideal, in which case you could order both the woodfired pork and lamb, more sides and a few desserts to end – which is what I intend to do next time I heed the call for oh-so-beautiful meat at Porteño.