After our tourist session in Manly and our delicious lunch, dinner time rolled around and very quickly at that!
Our plans were to make our way to the hipster suburb of Surry Hills and snag a table at the very popular Porteno on Cleveland Street before the dinner crowds swarmed in that Friday night. The thing about Porteno is, it’s super popular, they don’t take bookings for groups of 4 or less, if the restaurant is full-they’ll put you on a waiting list and you can wait upstairs in Gardel’s Bar where a bar menu is available, and should a table become available, you’ll only get seated once your whole group is together (mainly for those who come and reserve a spot whilst still waiting for their friends to arrive). Not getting in early to reserve a spot can lead to a looooooooong wait time, we’ve heard of wait times of up to 3.5 hours and that the food was so good that it was actually worth the wait! Now that’s saying something.
We tried to make our way there as soon as it opened but our stomachs were still so stuffed from Papi Chulo and time was working against us. I suggested that we go ahead anyways and if there was a wait time (hopefully not too long of a wait), it’d probably do us good as it could build up our non existing appetites. Doors opened at 6pm and we arrived at around 6.45pm. No surprises when we had to put our name down and go on the wait list, so we went upstairs to Gardel’s Bar and sipped on a few boozy cocktails whilst we let our hunger build.
Banana old fashioned: banana infused Jack Daniels and house-smoked maple syrup
Singapore sling: Gin, Cherry Heering, Cointreau, Benedictine, Bitters, lemon, grenadine, pineapple and soda; $18.00
About 45 minutes later, a table had freed up and we were in – a relatively short wait time in comparison to the 3.5 hour wait experienced by others so we were happy. Our hunger had also returned just in time and we were ready to fill our empty and boozed up bellies!
Our friendly and chatty waiter was a joy! He thought he had seen the stranger dine at Porteno before and was happy to see him back… haha, that wasn’t the case as it was our first time there but his infectious personality made for good conversation as we had a look at the menu and contemplated on the specials on offer for the evening. He gave us suggestions and a rough guide on how much to order to share between the both of us to ensure a good feed for the night. We settled for their special of salad that they concocted up in the kitchen that very day, a large main to share along with a side of veggies just to balance out the meat to veggie ratio.
Homemade pork belly ham, poached egg, mushrooms, croutons and celery
This was dee-vine. Like seriously amazing~ (I feel like I’m quoting my 15yo self here, haha).
We still think about this dish and try to take ourselves back to when we demolished it completely off the board. Melty ham with a velvety rich and gooey poached egg with bites of the crunchiest and buttered up crouton pieces that will put all other croutons to shame. The inclusion of celery was genius! A burst of freshness and bite to balance out the flavours and textures with some bits deep fried giving a nice crispy crunch. Mmmmmmm~
Next was the star of the show, 8 hour wood fired pig and lamb!
Half and half of chanchito a la cruz (8 hour wood fired pig) and cordero a la cruz (8 hour wood fired lamb); $46.00
Our waiter recommended we choose their 8 hour wood fired monsters and cause we couldn’t decide between the two, he let us have both as half and half. A monster serving arrived with tender pieces of meat resting in their fatty rich juices. It was intense and delicious but that delectable chimichurri sauce was a saviour in cutting out the richness and adding a bright flavourful tang and punch to each mouthful. If it wasn’t deemed inappropriate, I would have happily took that chimichurri sauce pot and had it as a shot. No joke. :)~
I narrowed our side selection down to their very popular crispy fried brussel sprouts with lentils and mint; $16.00 or grilled corn with radish, lime, butter and manchego cheese; $16.00.
The corn won out in the end. ‘Great choice’ piped our waiter who informed us that both the brussel sprouts and grilled corn were favourites amongst diners and himself.
Choclo asado con lima y queso: grilled corn with radish, lime, butter and manchego cheese; $16.00
The salad was… double thumbs up! Refreshing and bright with sweet crunchy kernels and crisp freshness from the thin slices of radish; the dressing of lime and butter was zesty and sinful and oh so good. I asked for the manchego cheese on the side as the stranger is lactose intolerant, so I got a whole dish of light flaky grated cheese all to myself – woo!
A monster dinner meal, fantastic service and great atmosphere although a bit ‘dark’ for my liking with both Gardel’s Bar and Porteno Restaurant dimly lit – namely the bar, that gave my eyes a test in night vision mode! The restaurant is super pop-u-lar(!), it was busy and quite loud but that’s just part of the Porteno experience.
358 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
P 02 8399 1440