Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

A big thank you, as always, to my sponsors at Blue Vapours (use them for all your design and advertising needs - we are waiting for your call!).

Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sydney Restaurant Award - Porteño

... or ‘You’re (wood)Fired!’

358 Clevland St, Surry Hills  NSW 2010
ph: (02) 8399 1440

On my recent literary tour to Sydney, I was thrilled to be hosted by Johnny Taranto; television producer at SBS.  In addition to taking me backstage and introducing me to his colleagues, he was also kind enough to be my local guide while in SinCity.  And JT was quite keen to go to a “pit roasted meats” restaurant in Surrey Hills called Porteño.

“It’s the hottest place in town.  Everyone’s talking about it, and apparently the food is fantastic.  It’s slow cooked meat done over coals …”

So we went.  And we got to do some celebrity spotting while we were there...

But first, a cab ride with a big fat Czech driver talking about beer:

“You hear Budweiser is suing Budvar to stop them using name?  Ha!  Budvar around much longer.  I tell you story.  Back in war, this the first world war I talk, the American soldiers are stationed in Czech.  They have not much to do since war over, but they like a beer, why not?  And there are two names for everything, one the German, the other Czech, so that Budvar and Budweiser is really the same thing, just the different languages.  But the Americans, they think: “This pretty good beer, ja?  Why not we take home and then we can drink there?”  But the commander find out, and he make the limit of them only taking back two cases of the beer each.  But then one of the soldiers, he smarter than the others, and he say “Well, soldiers only take back two cases, but what about the horses?  How many they take back?”  And so they fill the horses up with the beer, take them back to America and then they get the beer back out of horses.  And this is the Budweiser.  And if you don’t believe me, you drink and tell me it not out of the horse.”

And now you know how they make Budweiser too…  Thanks for the history lesson, Mr Cab Driver!

We landed at Porteño and could smell the meat from the street.  It’s in a Spanish style looking building on a corner, double storied, and when we went in the décor is kind of el rustico: think those curved arches with upside down horse shoes nailed to the arches for luck, a la mode of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

We were told by a bearded maitre d’ that there would be a two and a half hour wait for the restaurant:

‘Bum, I’m in town for only a couple of nights and really wanted to come here.’
‘Well, you could go up the road, but it’s Friday night and you’ll have to wait there too.  Tell you what, if it was me, you’ve arrived, so just kick back and enjoy yourselves, and the wait will be over in no time.’

We were directed to the bar upstairs (pressed metal rooves, another mini-restaurant really) and settled in for the wait.  JT was looking well pleased.  I inquired why?

‘Mark Bouris is here.  He was the next person in line ahead of us.’
‘Mark Bouris.  He’s like the sixth richest man in Sydney, and the host of Australia’s the Apprentice.’
‘What, you mean like as in “You’re fired”?’
‘Exactly.  You know when you’re going out to a restaurant with one of richest men in Sydney…’
‘That you’re going to be paying a lot for your meal?’

They had a cabinet of chacuterie upstairs, but before we could order any, our table downstairs in the restaurant proper became available.  The wait wasn’t a third as long as threatened, and we had a great dinner with pork, lamb, beef ribs, red wine (Malbec – their speciality), brussel sprouts charred and caramelised, and corn smothered in cheese.

It’s Argentinian food, and one of our multitudinous waiters was another Colombian, so you’d think the place was owned or run by South Americans.  But not a word of it.  As the site informs us:

“The menu at Porteño comes to you straight from the kitchens of Argentina via the imaginations and culinary artistry of chefs and owners, Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz.”

The franchise is yet another one of these businesses started by bearded hipsters covered in tattoos.  To this hipster’s credit, he was standing over the coals and cooking the meat himself, so it’s not like he’s afraid of getting his hands dirty (though I hope he washes them for food handling).

Basically, it was a bit like Le Bon Ton with a South American theme… and much better done.  I give it seven tentacles out of eight!!