Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Porteno Argentinian Bar and Restaurant, Surry Hills

"Get to my place at 6:30....We are cabbing it in. It's date night!"
Yes, after reading a bit about Porteno and some of the cocktails on offer there would be no driving of any sort involved. Having heard that the Bodega boys were opening a new place we were eagerly anticipating a night out once Porteno had opened it's doors. Given that it was now open now for 3 weeks I thought that a date night was needed to try it out. We just needed any sort of excuse really, so what better way to score brownie points than by making it date night.

The Upstairs bar area

So into the cab we go and I tell Gianna about all of the different things i've read about that would be interesting to try,  eagerly looking forward to getting there to try the suckling pig especially. It was pretty exciting to be going somewhere newly opened, never having actually done so before. All was going well until we actually arrived only to be told that they weren't taking names for the waiting list. At first it was pretty devastating but as the saying goes, when a door shuts a window opens, or something along those lines. Not being able to put our names on the table waiting list the maitre de told us to go upstairs and have a drink and come back to see him a bit later on - our window of opportunity. We were lucky to get a spot at the upstairs bar because it was teeming with people waiting around for a table, much like we had planned to do. I must say though that Porteno is gorgeous. It is beautifully furnished and well decorated and upstairs has that cool retro feel - especially with touches such as the vintage fooseball table.
 Palermo Hollywood $17, Banana Old Fashioned $20,

We sit at the bar and peruse the very interesting drinks menu. We decide to start with a Banana Old Fashioned and Palermo Hollywood. All I can say is wow. Our bartender friend in suspenders who shall be known as Nelson got us hooked on the drinks right from the word go. I am aware that I might be sounding like an alcoholic but I highly recommend all to come to Porteno to at least try the cocktails because they are that good. Basically the Banana Old Fashioned is banana infused Jack Daniels with house maple syrup. The Palermo Hollywood is Herradurra blacno tequila, cloudy apple juice vanilla syrup with sage leafs. Both were sweet and well balanced and went down an absolute treat. Striking up conversation with Nelson he explained that they make their own infused whisky by a process known as fat washing. They cook the banana with butter and pour in the whisky and let it sit. Separating the fat from the liquid you get the byproduct - banana infused whisky. Stay tuned for my attempt to replicate this in the near future. 
So getting through the first round of drinks quite easily I head downstairs to talk to the maitre de. Great success - we could at least put our names down for a table albeit being a 1 hour wait. But hey with a full assortment of cocktails to get through and our buddy Nelson at the helm it was no drama. It's actually quite pleasant sitting at the bar especially when you can also pick on some food while chatting with your bartender.
Empanadas $4 each, Vegetable Fritters with aoli $10 
To start we had some empanadas and vegetable fritters. The empanadas were crisp on the outside and stuffed with pork, roasted capsicum and something else very tasty that escapes my memory. They were very delicious and went really well with the drinks. The Vegetable fritters made up of  corn, zucchini and parsley were also very nice and were served with aoli. Both were excellent nibbles to accompany drinks and it would've been quite easy to stay at the bar nibbling away on plate after plate of empanadas and fritters. 
But there were still more drinks to get through until we could have dinner.
"Nelson, what would you suggest?"
Santa Cruz $18 - Anejo rum, pisco sour, pear apple rhubarb syrup with lemon, lavender and a dash of bittersSanta Rosa $17 - Aperol, blood orange juice, caramel syrup & lemon juice with grapefruit bitters with orange peel
Still happy to kill time waiting for our dinner sitting we called on Nelson to suggest something for us to try next. We settled on a Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. I really enjoyed my Santa Cruz - that is until Gianna took it. It was very sweet and easy to drink. But the Santa Rosa was just as good - very sharp flavours and just a beautiful colour.
Our "to do list" the Cocktail Menu
Magellan Straits - $18 In house spiced rum with pineapple and five spice syrup, sparkling wine and nutmeg
Finishing up Nelson couldn't leave me with an empty glass so he served me a glass of Magellan straits. "He discovered the Philippines!!" Yes Gianna, yes he did. It looks somewhat girly but as Nelson explained "it's all about the taste and the combination of flavours. If you want a mans drink you can have a bourbon. That would be boring." The addition of nutmeg over frothy top layer just made it 'taste like Christmas' according to a very happy Gianna. 
Top view of the Magellan Straits
Meatballs with romesco sauce - $10
Getting a bit hungrier we started ordering some more nibbles. Meatballs were next. Salty, well seasoned and a crisp crumbed outer layer they were just scrumptious.
A Birds eye view of the dining area downstairs
The very very hard working and classy bartenders
Sangria Soda $12 - Martini rosso, red wine, lemonade with macerated fruits
Aeroplineas Argentinas $18 - Aviation gin, maraschino cherry & lemon syrup and star anise.

The next round of drinks were a twist on some established classics. Sangria soda was very very good to drink and I just loved the blood red colour. The soda part was a nice touch because I find that sometimes bubbles are just add that little bit of lift. At this stage we were getting somewhat into a belligerent state so I can't really remember what the Aeroplineas Argentinas was a twist of but it was equally as good.
Croquettes with Mahon cheese and corn $10 
Looking at the photo of these croquettes as a write this now I am salivating. They were so so good. I don't really want to write about them because I implore you to go and try them. Goooey cheese, corn, parsley and a crispy outer layer they are unreal. They were sold out when we arrived but thankfully were replenished in time for us to try!
House made bread with pork pate - $4 
So after a somewhat enjoyable hour and a half drinking ourselves through the menu we get taken to our table downstairs. We don't waste much time in ordering. Starting with some bread and pork pate to get things going. The bread is made by the restaurant and served with a pork pate. It was nice but a little bit on the strong side with a really bitter aftertaste. I also got what I will call my favourite drink of the evening - La Boca. But once again it was pinched.
La Boca $20 - Herradurra blanco tequila, cumquat jam, honey & ginger syrup with aperol on the rocks

BBQ calamari with pickled heirloom tomatoes - $18
The BBQ calamari was amazing. Salty, soft, smoky in flavour and served with pickled heirloom tomatoes. Lathered with lemon and littered with chilli it was such a fresh dish, we couldn't get enough of it. Fortunately for me, Gianna isn't really into the pickled vegetables so I had them all to myself.
Beef short ribs with salsa & chimichurri - $34
The beef short ribs were our next selection given that the kitchen had run out of the suckling pig. It was a shame in a way but it gives us an excuse to go back again. Nonetheless the short ribs were nothing short of amazing. Cooked to perfection with nice pink centres and served on a wooden board with salsa and chimichurri they went down a treat. The charred and smoky flavour was there and I loved how tasty it was when combined with the fresh salsa.

Veal Sweetbreads - $18
Now the veal sweetbreads were something I had read about and just told Gianna we had to try. Just as well because they were amazing. They were very soft and tender and had a very smooth consistency. It's hard to draw comparisons to liver but I suppose there is nothing else I can think of that they would be similar to. They melted the minute you had them in your mouth and if I wasn't so full from all the rest of the food I don't think Gianna would have had a chance to even try them. 
The photo that pretty much sum's up the night. Bursting at the Seams!
So by now as the photos demonstrate the conversation was roughly as follows:
 "Do you have panadol?"
"I'll take 6 thanks. Prevantative Measure"
But wait...desserts were still to come!
Dining Area

Interior Shots and the Wine Cellar
Leche Quemada - $14 
Managing to save some room in our stomachs and muster the ability to string a few sentences together we managed to order some desert. Leche Quemada. A burnt milk custard with cumquat jam, dark chocolate ice cream& salted popcorn. This was an interesting desert seeing as it was sprinkled with salted popcorn. The burn milk custard was smooth and creamy and their were bitter notes with the ice cream and cumquat jam that served to compliment the sweetness of the cream. Strangely enough the salted popcorn really made the dish a standout. 
All in all a very enjoyable experience at Porteno which we encourage all to go and try. Take on the cocktail challenge friends, but since we shared our cocktail picks with you, please share with us your favourite cocktails, do you stick with the classics? Or do you venture into the exciting?
Gratuitous dessert photo's

No Bloggers were harmed in the making of this post, and there were hardly any sore heads the next day..all the meat soaked up the alcohol.
Porteno on Urbanspoon
358 Cleaveland St Surry Hills 02 9210 7766
Bookings only taken for groups of 6 or more.


Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

Well done Demos - my favourite post by far.
Im sorry for drinking all your cocktails, they were far too girly for you and ruined your manly image.

Lets go back now. Please.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

cocktails ahoy! the no-name taking at the start sounds a bit odd but those veal sweetbreads? hubba hubba!

chocolatesuze said...

butter infused whiskey? oh hello that just sounds divine!

Sarah said...

Luv your blog, I like how you have fun together and also u have the most random colourful nailpolishes!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Great post Gianna! I love your nails too-I had to notice those of course! :P

the dainty baker said...

I drive past this place all the time!!! ... never really looked into it.. but looks like a real gem/feast from all those pics!! hahahha love those expression shots!

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...


I want, I want, I want: to go, the cocktails, the croquettes, the short rib - not the sore heads though ;)

Laura said...

oh boy, you two are incredible. seriously!

gianna, coffee soon. wee wee? (yes yes?)

fickle red riding hood said...

Such a fantastic and thorough review. Can't wait to try Porteno out.

Veronica said...

That was really enjoyable to read, and I love that you can admit you possibly love food more than each other. Myself and 2 of my friends have a food blog also thats lots of fun and we have come up with our very own 'rating system'....

We don't go out to eat, everything we come up with has to be cooked on this decrepid old 4 Burner BBQ......for the challenge I think.....check it outThat was really enjoyable to read, and I love that you can admit you possibly love food more than each other. Myself and 2 of my friends have a food blog also thats lots of fun and we have come up with our very own 'rating system'....

We don't go out to eat, everything we come up with has to be cooked on this decrepid old 4 Burner BBQ......for the challenge I think.....check it out


felix said...

We were here Friday night, however we were lucky enough to be seated at the very last available table so we didn't get the chance to get smashed on cocktails :P Loved the beef ribs slathered in chimichurri too, that's the best combo

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