- JoanN Jan 29, 2013 08:06 AM
People are often looking for something walkable from either the Javits Center or Penn Station and those were our parameters for dinner last night. Five of us were leaving from the Javits and one of us had a train from Penn Station later in the evening. We decided to try Porteño, right on the edge of Chelsea on 10th Avenue between 27th and 28th. I was surprised not to see any reviews here on CH since the restaurant has been around for a couple of years.
It’s a rather small place; maybe 35-40 covers, including about 8 seats at the bar. Somewhat dark and atmospheric with rustic wood tables and chairs and minimal decor. It was noisy last night, but it was hard to tell if that was because of the acoustics or because of a large party of 8 or 9 who were having quite a good time.
Very nice list of cocktails. I was the only one who ordered one, but after they tasted it my friends kept asking for additional “tastes.” It was called a Masoca and was made with Inocente tequila, Cachaça, muddled jalapeño, cilantro syrup, and fresh citrus. One of the better cocktails I’ve had in a long time.
The menu has something for everyone, from snacks and small plates to sandwiches, pastas, and main courses. There are three choices of empanadas, which my friends shared. I only tried a bit of crust which I’m quite certain was made with lard and was very good. But the Latin Americans at the table thought the fillings weren’t as well seasoned as they might have been.
I had the special appetizer of charred octopus which was superb. I tasted a friend’s grilled shrimp; also very good. I also tasted the spinach gnocchi with braised lamb ragu; the sauce was flavorful, but the gnocchi were a bit leaden. The person who had the Carbonara Porteño with shrimp was pleased as was the person who had the sirloin and arugula salad. I was told the special filet mignon was perfectly cooked. The quinoa salad was declared “not a wow.” I had a pork chop in Malbec and honey sauce that was the biggest pork chop I’ve ever seen. Perfectly braised, tender, and a bit charred on the outside. It was excellent, but I could eat no more than half of it. Five of us shared two desserts: the chocolate mousse cake was delicious, the warm peach tart with vanilla ice cream didn’t taste much of peach.
I didn’t see the wine list, but the oenophile among us declared it a good one with a lot of variety and price points from the mid-$30s to high $80s. Appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and pastas were mostly in the $12 to $14 range and main courses in the high teens to mid-twenties with the most expensive a 12-ounce rib eye at $27.
Service was professional and very friendly, perhaps because half our table spoke Spanish but I think that’s just the vibe of the place. Because the restaurant is so small, and was full soon after we arrived until we left, I’d definitely recommend reservations. Although not every dish was equally praiseworthy, all five of us were very pleased to have found such a good, satisfying, modestly-priced (by New York standards) meal in a wasteland of a neighborhood. Any of us would be happy to return.