Freelance writer and blogger from Sydney (ex-Melbourne). Avid foodie and traveller. Loves dogs.
Published October 19th 2018
Argentinian restaurant Porteño opened in 2010 to much fanfare… and it's only taken me eight years to finally visit. Mind you, it wasn't because I never tried - trust me, the intention for me to visit was always there. The only problem was that timing was never right.
Four years later, I'm living in Sydney and Porteño has since moved from its original Cleveland Street location. The new restaurant now occupies the former MoVida site on Holt Street. The Holt Street venue has a parilla, a traditional barbeque, and a demi-asado, an open charcoal pit. There's honestly nothing like the scent of meat cooking over hungry flames and that's the first thing you smell when you walk in.
I'll say straight up that the dishes at Porteño aren't cheap at first glance – we're talking $40 to $60 large plates. That said, the best way to enjoy a meal at Porteño is to bring a small group of mates with you and share a bunch of plates. In the end, the price per head isn't too steep.
The first meaty main that came out was the entrana, a 300g piece of Kobe wagyu skirt steak from Queensland. It was served with wood roasted peppers and chimichurri. Juicy and lean, each piece had just the right amount of marbling combined with smokiness from the charcoal fire.
Apparently, they slow cook the pigs for eight hours here so there was no way we were going to skip the wood fired Berkshire pork. To be honest, I'm someone that avoids ordering too much pork belly at a restaurant (it had its time in the sun), but I had to admit that this dish was delicious. The crispy crackling was always going to be winner, but I also gave two thumbs up to the pineapple, tomato and habanero salsa sitting underneath the pork. My only complaint was that the meat itself was verging on the slightly dry side.
Porteño may be a meat eater's restaurant but surprisingly, they do plant-based dishes really well. In fact, I could probably return and order only vegetarian dishes and be completely satisfied. I mean, who doesn't like the sound of wood fired mushroom croquettes and cauliflower dumplings in farro leek broth?
A was sold on the tempura wood fired broccoli with almond cream – and wow, what a dish. To be fair, tempura anything is always going to get my tick of approval but they did a fantastic job here. The tempura batter itself was light and crispy, while the luscious almond cream was delightfully tasty. We loved this dish so much that we ordered round two.
Our last dish was the grilled spatchcock with snake beans and mojo verde. $40 for a spatchcock dish did sound slightly excessive but I forgot that I was in Sydney. To be fair though, it wasn't a small spatchcock and the meat was so succulent and tender. The bird was marinated in a simple yet tasty paprika and lemon mixture; a short stint over the grill was all the bird needed to bring out its flavour.
Porteño maybe eight years old but it shows no sign of slowing down. The place was pumping on the night we were there (it was just after 6pm on a school night too!) and there was a line of patiently waiting diners when we were walking out. My advice would be to rock up early as the restaurant does get quite loud as the evening progresses and be sure to order at least one vegetarian dish to complement all the chargrilled meat dishes you'll be feasting on.