It’s a new month and as requisite, we decide to smash another kickass joint in Sydney as we keep knocking places off this terminally long list I keep. Today, we visit Porteno, an Argentinian grill inspired place run by the guys behind Bodega, a popular one hat tapas joint in Surry Hills. There’s a 50s style theme to the place, most apparent from the lady who must’ve been the lead hostess, dressed like Marilyn with a blonde coif and this striking graphic print dress with pumps on the feet. The head bartender had a bowtie, prescription chunky Raybans, suspenders and slicked hair. So did this guy that looked like the lead singer of Twin Shadow, but with slicked back hair. The two chefs too. They had slicked back hair and full sleeves. You half expect them to break out into some bubblegum punk whilst cooking. Ben Milgate was throwing chunks of seafood and beef on this sloping grill which has a lever to adjust the height whilst selecting from some rockabilly and jazz on his iPod. Elvis Abrahanowicz was at the chopping block, slicing up fresh grilled meat cut straight from the carcasses standing over the asador/open charcoal fire pit thing in the middle of the room. That last thing, the asador, is pretty much the biggest attention grabber. 2 whole baby suckling pigs and 2 baby suffolk lambs were slit open at the belly and opened up flat, placed into this metal holder and suspender over a big and really warm fire pit between the bar and the grill. Our table is right in front of it. We always get good seats. We take a gander at the menu although we know pretty much what we were getting. Pork for my mate, lamb for me. Two entrees including some smoked mackerel and grilled calamari. Somehow somewhere, whether because of the spectacle before or whatever, we ended up with a 3rd entree. Morcilla/Blood Sausage. Oh and uh some house bread with pork pate for kicks. The pate’s quite good. The bread’s not bad either. For $2 a person, we get 3 rolls and some extras. That’s better than many other places where bread is an extra. A hell of a lot better. It also sets the tone for the amount of protein we were about to consume. Vegetarians and vegans and those weak of constitution, look away now. I can’t recall the names of these two dressings but they would be helpful soon enough. Let me just say that if you eat at Porteno, these two will be your best friends. The first dish that arrived I think was terrific. It was some smoked mackerel served with pickled celery, heart of palm and some avocado. The mackerel was great, lovely deep flavor, crisp skin, tender flesh… The rest of it just served to amp up the savoury aspect with smooth, bright acidic and fresh to contrast. Just beautiful.

Entree #2. Chargrilled calamari with pickled green tomatoes and chilli. Grilled just so, charred just enough and the tomatoes and chilli just gave it enough interest. I’m really getting into this pickled tomato/peppers/chillies thing and this dish is a great example of how that acidity is able to support something strong in flavor and lift it even more.

Ooh yeah baby! Morcilla: Pig’s blood, fat, onions… Let me rephrase. Pig fat, pig fat, some blood, little bits of onions and more pig fat. The roasted capsicum it sits on is sweet and delish, a highlight but together… Ooh yeah baby!

Right enough fluff. Let’s move onto the mains. What you see above is a heaping pile of various cuts from a suckling pig that stood over the fire pit just moments ago. The flesh is oh man, so so tender and juice. Imagine the bestest roast pork you ever had. Now multiply that by two. And the crackling. It’s like icing, in fat form.

Mmmmm. My pick of the night, the lamb, which also happens to be cheaper than the pork. It’s just as tender, maybe a touch drier expectedly but don’t let that detract from anything. Make no mistake. This is good meat cooked bloody well. You’ll get some of those crispy charred bits of fat, skin and flesh/fat combos that are just woah. If you like lamb, order this and nothing else. If you don’t like lamb, grab a knife, sit down, insert knife into your abdomen on one side. Using both hands, drag it across to the other side as your guts spill onto the floor.

We have a debate but succumb to ordering dessert. They’re quite good but I can only imagine most people having like none of it given what had come before. If you even get just one portion of the pork or lamb, you should be stuffed, without bread/sides etc. Me. I had 1.5 entrees, bread, a whole main and now a whole dessert. To be honest I could actually go Kobayashi stylee on dis shit but Imma responsible adult for now. This one above is a burnt cream custard with chocolate ice cream, orange jam and some popcorn. The caramel glass on the custard cracks up nicely but the custard itself is somewhat bland. Eat it with the jam and ice cream though and it’s quite bloody good. The popcorn brings in a slightly salty element.

Postre Chaja, a Uruguayan style pavlova with meringue, dulche de leche, peanuts, sous vide mango and some soaked sponge with in this case. Quite bloody good, bright and light.

Overall, I’ve already planned my next assault, if that’s anything to go by. Definitely wanna drop in for some skirt steak, fried veal sweetbreads, empanadas, pickled veal tongue, bbq eggplant, chorizo, fried brussel sprouts… Wait. That’s a bit much for a single meal huh. Oh well. Make it a couple more assaults then. I waved and gave Elvis a thumbs up which he acknowledged. Dude, Imma come back soonish.

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