13 December 2010

take me back to Porteno please

The sign out front should say "vegetarians need not apply". Not because there aren't any vegetarian meals, because there is and they're delicious. Case in point the crispy fried brussel sprouts with lentils and mint ($14), for anyone who's never liked sprouts you will walk out converted.

It could be because you walk into Porteno and see pig and lamb carcasses resting on top of the Parilla Grill at temperatures of up to 250 degrees. They have been there for eight hours and I couldn't be more grateful.

This is my second time to Porteno and if you asked me to go again tomorrow I would. The boys from Bodega Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate have created something really special. The large space has been fitted out in true rockabilly form and completely transformed from what could be a very empty and drab restaurant.

When you go, do as I say - gather a group of four or more (five if you want to make a booking) and start with a delicious bottle of red we weren't disappointed with the Mil Piedras Sangiovese. Order the olives, house baked bread with the creamy and delicious pork pate and olive oil and then tuck into some tapas until your heart is content.

I've already mentioned the sprouts but we also went for the seared tuna with grilled asparagus and a charred jalapeno dressing($22). The tuna was cooked perfectly and the sauce had just enough kick, the dish was a stand-out to me. We also went for the BBQ eggplant with tahini, pearl barley and preserved lemon($14), reminiscent of baba ghanoush. And finally grilled calamari with pickled green tomatoes and chilli($18), my mouth is literally watering at the thought.

Last but not least, the 8 hour lamb ($42) and pork($48) which you absolutely must order. Melt in your mouth soft but smoky with a crispy crackling served with salsa and chimichurri.

There are four desserts on the Porteno menu and it is impossible not to order all of them so that's exactly what we did. The postre chaja ($14) (below) with caramel sauce, sticky mango and crunchy meringue, the leche quemada a burnt custard (below) and my favourite of the four, the chocolate fondant with banana ice-cream and a summery fresh Pina Colada float with coriander.