Review: Porteño (Surry Hills)

I’ve accomplished one of my few food-related wishes for the year: I’ve eaten in Porteño. It took a while and was definitely worth it. Gladys and I had the perfect excuse: it was her birthday and she thought an extra celebration (we had dinner with friends on the day) wouldn’t hurt. It was Mardi Gras day and we thought there wouldn’t be much people who day. We still arrived early (5:45 pm), which turned out to be a good idea because the line grew up exponentially within minutes.

Once inside the rustic decor almost makes you feel in one of the many restaurants in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires (people from Buenos Aires are called porteños, “from the port”). Except that you order in English, pay much more, and don’t get limitless amounts of booze with your meal. Oh, well.

Decoration

Inside Porteño

The restaurant was packed as usual but the staff were not rushing around.

Chefs at work

Chefs at work

The classic Argentinian cow cuts (yes, cuts are different in different parts of the world) is on display just in case you’re wondering where your order came from.

Cow cuts

Cow cuts

Porteño’s most popular items are the chanchitos and corderos a la cruz, baby pigs and lambs that are “crucified” and cooked next to the fire. That’s the way the gauchos have been cooking for ages.

Chanchitos a la cruz

Chanchitos a la cruz

We wanted to order mollejas (sweetbreads) but they were no longer in the menu, according to the waitress due to a shortage in Sydney. Not to worry, we now have an excuse to come back another day. We ordered a bunch of dishes to share and asked the sommelier to help us choose a good wine match (we had a glass of Alma Negra Malbec each).

We were served chimichurri and salsa. The waitress offered to explain what they were but there was no need.

Chimichurri & salsa

Chimichurri & salsa

Our first dish was caballa ahumada con palmitos y salsa golf (smoked mackerel, palm heart, avocado & pickled celery). I absolutely love palmitos but don’t eat them that often, mainly because they’re not that easy to find in Sydney. It was a long while since I last had golf sauce; it went well with the rest of the dish. I liked it but it’s not something I’d consider special, since it’s fairly easy to put together in 10 minutes given you have the ingredients at home (most of them come in a package).

Caballa ahumada con palmitos y salsa golf

Caballa ahumada con palmitos y salsa golf ($22)

To make up for the lack of mollejas we ordered a morcilla (blood sausage with red peppers in garlic). We both love it and have eaten some in Sydney, this one didn’t disappoint.

Morcilla

Morcilla ($12)

We were torn between a few of the salad/vegetable dishes, and finally chose the ensalada de hinojo (shaved fennel salad with apricot, black olives and amontillado dressing), which was delicious and a great fresh accompaniment for the other dishes.

Ensalada de hinojo

Ensalada de hinojo ($12)

Finally, the star of the night arrived to our table the chanchito a la cruz. They cook it for 8 hours and the result is phenomenal. It was incredibly tasty and tender. The extra crispy skin was a big bonus.

Chanchito a la cruz

Chanchito a la cruz ($44)

At this point we were officially and absolutely stuffed, so we declined the dessert menu (not that we would have ordered any). Before coming to Porteño I was afraid the food wouldn’t live to my expectations (having been in Argentina quite a few times they were pretty high) but it did. I’ll be back.

Porteño
358 Cleveland Street Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02)8399 1440
www.porteno.com.au

10 thoughts on “Review: Porteño (Surry Hills)

  1. Still on my wishlist. We never have the ability to get there at 5:45pm and with the no reservations it just seems ridiculous to wait in line for hours.

    One day, but in the meantime, you’re definitely keeping the desire alive. It’s interesting to hear the perspective of a South American diner, as opposed to someone completely unfamiliar with the style of food, like I would be.

  2. Your serving of pork looks simply divine. Porteno’s still one of my fave places in Sydney.

    “Except that you order in English, pay much more, and don’t get limitless amounts of booze with your meal. Oh, well.” – haha, facts of life in Sydney.

  3. I love Porteno – love the food and the atmosphere. Next time try the Lamb from the spit, I think it’s better than the pork. Really! Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much – you’re opinion on South American food is one to live by.

  4. Gah, you’ve disappeared from my twitter and I can’t find you anywhere. Apparently the Jiimca (?) can be found at Flemington Markets. Chef Darren said he’s also seen it at the IGA in Market City…

  5. I loved my trip to Porteno last year. I think the sides / starters might have changed since my visit, but I found them a real highlight. Even more special than the meat!

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