La Puerta, Neutral Bay
Hidden away from the bustling Military Road in Neutral Bay is La Puerta, a great place to dine if you are a fan of Latin American cuisine. The restaurant design features red, black and dark wooden hues with a dramatic mural depicting two dancers in the midst of a tango.
The food is made for sharing and we started with the Tiradito. Thin slices of kingfish have been marinated with Aji Amarillo (a chilli paste), dressed with lime juice and red sorrel leaves. It's similar to ceviche, wonderfully fresh, tangy with a bit of heat.
I love my grilled corn and La Puerta’s Mazarcada Corn is just as delicious as the ones I’ve tried at Mamasita or Ms G’s. The corn was topped with a generous amount of grated haloumi cheese and a delicious spice mix.
For the bigger dishes, we opted for the Grilled giant octopus with chorizo and crispy potato. The grilled octopus almost tasted meaty, and the capsicum chutney together with the aioli made for a great flavour combination. It was definitely a moreish dish.
Can’t say I’ve tried Pork belly with avocado puree so I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out to be a great combination. The pork was incredibly tender with crispy crackling, and finished off with a chorizo crumb. The smoked potato and avocado puree provided a good balance to the bold flavours of the dish.
Onto dessert and the Popcorn and soursop ice cream sandwich definitely caught my eye. I love the taste of soursop, but have usually only found it in some Vietnamese restaurant as an ingredient to a smoothie. First time having soursop ice cream and it was very refreshing and perfectly offset the sweetness of the dulce de leche-laced popcorn brittle. It was definitely a fun dessert to eat.
La Puerta has a lovely ambience and it's definitely worth a visit to experience some South American cuisine, tapas style. There’s an extensive cocktails and wine list too, featuring mainly Chilean and Argentinian varieties.
Pastuso, Melbourne CBD
When your team loses in the grand final, the only thing to do is eat away your sorrows. I did just that at Peruvian restaurant Pastuso in Melbourne with my dad after this year's AFL decider. Located off Flinders lane in one of its famous graffiti-ed laneway, the first thing that struck me as I entered Pastuso was the sleek interior, with hanging dry aged beef and colourful neon posters adorning one wall.
One of the main reasons I wanted to try this place was because of its extensive ceviche menu, one of my favourite things to eat. We started with the Amazonian Ceviche with king salmon and plantain fritters, which tasted as good as it looked. The cubes of salmon were soft and succulent, soaking in the sweet and sour orange and lemon dressing. The plantain fritter added a fun crunchiness to the dish.
One ceviche dish was clearly not enough, so we opted for the Crystal Bay Prawn ceviche with a ponzu and white miso. I had not expected the prawns to be charred but it was a gorgeuos dish nonetheless. The prawns had been marinated in the white miso sauce and retained a real sweetness, whilst the turnip puree was just exquisitely smooth and creamy.
I have had some pretty tasty croquettes in Spanish tapas bars, but this might just op them all. The potato croquettes with pulled beef brisket, pecans, olives and salsa were hands down the tastiest croquettes I’ve ever had. It had the perfect crunch on the outside and bursted with flavour on the inside.
For mains, we shared the Berkshire slow roasted pork shoulder with adobo sauce which was cooked in a smoke chamber. It had a hint of smokiness without being overpowering. You could tell the meat was slow cooked as it fell apart at the slightest touch. The Peruvian rice did not taste that special, but served its purpose to soak up the yummy adobo sauce.
Filling pretty full, we opted for a trio of watermelon, melon and passion fruit sorbet for dessert, a refreshing end to a very tasty meal - it definitely lessened the blow of a crunching Grand Final defeat, at least momentarily. I hope to be back and have a seat at the ceviche bar, or perhaps try out the alpaca from the grill.
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