Porteño is an anti-vegan paradise; and we braved the wild Sydney weather to try it for you. Such a hard life!
For the last few years, we’ve been storing a pile of items in our attic for my cousin. Let’s call her CousinK; because her name starts with K. She lives out of Sydney but drops by every now and then to hang out and we always enjoy her company. A few weeks ago, she declared that she should do something for us in lieu of storage. I said “You don’t need to; it’s not taking up much space. It’s no big deal.” She insisted, so I said “Babysitting is always welcome!”
We organized a night, and then Sydney was hit by an East Coast low. Wild weather ensued. Rain (about 100mm in 24 hours), wind, trees down, flash flooding. All sorts of madness. But that wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying a rare night out while the kids and CousinK were warm and dry at home.
We dashed out the front door into a cab, and dashed out of the cab into Porteño in Surry Hills, with wind blowing madly all around and rain chasing us inside.
The building that houses Porteño is an amazing old rabbit warren; created from a couple of old terraced houses. Our booking had been lost in the wilds of the internet, but they found us a table anyway. It was nice and cozy, aside from the table next to us where a boorish buffoon was telling the most bland story in the history of stories in a loud voice that spoke of too much wine. Our faces reflected those on his table – eyebrows slightly raised, as if attempting to hold one’s eyes open in the face of such mediocrity. Hardly the restaurants fault.
We started out with a couple of Argentinian beers, before contemplating the menu. All the dishes are designed to be shared; which makes the prices a little off-putting at first. However, the staff were excellent and once the food arrived, the prices made sense and were no more than any other restaurant of this quality.
We started with a stuffed zucchini flower – I can never resist these after growing them in my garden! It was seated on a gorgeous sauce, stuffed with cream cheese and coated in grated cheese. A vegetable option that was as vegan unfriendly as possible! The flower was beautiful, as expected, and the sauce was to die for.
Next up we had the grilled cheese and peppers. I was expecting chili peppers, but they were American peppers; ie capsicum. The tiny hint of disappointment I had at being lost in translation was gone as soon as the food hit my mouth. Oh man, a huge slab of grilled haloumi style cheese with the softest roasted capsicum you can imagine. The combination perfectly complimented each other, and soon disappeared.
We switched to wine, and Porteño had an excellent wine list. All Argentinian wines with the list nicely laid out on the page, so there were no issues in selecting a type that suited your own palate. The staff, again, were really helpful.
Then it was time for the king dish – the one this place is famous for – the mixed Asado (pit of fire) meats. We had the combination lamb and pork; cooked over fire for 8 hours. This was mouth-wateringly awesome. A totally rich meat fest with perfectly cooked juicy meat with charcoal crusty skin. My mouth waters in memory as I write this review. The meat dish came with a side of chimichurri sauce. This is my only criticism of the whole night. It was presented as hot; and was not. There was a touch of chili in the chimichurri, but not enough heat to cut through the richness of the roasted meats. I think this sauce would be improved if the restaurant gave a choice of heat. The standard one was simply not quite hot enough; and it added a slight disappointing touch to a brilliant evening.
We also had a side salad of grilled corn and lemon juice. This dish hardly qualifies to be labelled salad – it was mostly grated cheese with some corn hiding underneath. Yet the flavours were delightful, the lemon juice cutting through the richness of the cheese; and the grilled corn providing a textural crunch.
By now we were stuffed and toyed with the idea of going home. However, the bore from next door (and his long suffering group) left, so we decided that we should stay a while longer to enjoy the silence. We ordered more wine and a dessert. Rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream. As a dessert option after the rich dinner, it was inspired. The ice cream refreshed, and the rhubarb with flaky pastry was rich enough to accompany the main meal, with the right balance of sweetness to end the night on a top note.
The 8 hour Asado meat was the highlight. It’s the reason to go to this restaurant and it’s worth the expense.