Posts tagged Latin American Food

La Puerta, Neutral Bay

La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review

Tell me something: when you walk into a restaurant, are you looking for something “authentic”? What’s does it mean, anyway? Can Steak and Chips at the pub be considered “authentic” to any cuisine?

Those are the kind of questions I wonder about when I get invited to La Puerta, serving up a mix of influences from the South American region, to the high level of critique of my South American friends.

And you know how passionate they get.

The Order:

Pan Latino: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant ReviewPan Latino

Small bites

Pan Latino

Gaucho steak: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review Gaucho steak

Larger Plates

Coastal prawn cocktail
Gaucho steak

Pastelistos: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review Pastelitos


Tres leches cake

The Food:

The thing about serving up food from a region with such a different climate to Australia? The authenticity will always be an issue because produce will always be an issue. Not to mention the different cultural expectation when it comes to food.

The result? My South American friend wasn’t a fan of most things, while I quite liked that it was something different on the Sydney dining landscape.

Arepitas: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review Arepitas

The Arepitas, for example, polarised the discussion. Smaller versions of Arepas (corn bread sandwiches filled with meat and are usually pretty heavy), the Arepitas presented textural issues for him, while I was just happy that it did sit as heavy in my belly like the others that I’ve tried. Was it my favourite at the table? No, but I didn’t actively dislike it like he did.

Tiraditos: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review Tiraditos

What we could all agree on, though, was that the Tiraditos (think a white fish carpaccio with hit of tangy citrus and chilli) was absolutely lovely. It was fresh and colourful, and everything that you could hope for on a balmy summer evening.

Coastal prawn cocktail: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review Coastal prawn cocktail

Also on the hit list for me? The Coastal Prawn Cocktail. Kinda like a ceviche but not, the citrus cured prawn was served with plantains and a tomato based sauce, and the combination just made all my taste sensors go off at once. In a good way. Very moreish, and definitely whets the appetite.

Chicharron: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review Chicharron

The Chicharron was also lovely, because it takes an especially sad person to mess up crispy pork belly served with chorizo crumbs. COME ON! Does that not just speak of piggy genius? Seriously though, it was a really nice dish, save for the one critique that the chorizo crumbs weren’t especially…chorizo-y. I was expecting more paprika and smoke flavours to come through on that count, but it didn’t. Not that it took much away from the dish I don’t think.

Tres leeches cake: La Puerta, Neutral Bay. Sydney Food Blog Restaurant Review Tres leeches cake

On the dessert front, the Tres Leches cake was particularly moreish for me. I have my doubts about its authenticity, but there was just something about it that triggered childhood memories of me soaking my sponge cake in milk to make a pudding of sorts. Heck, I still do it. Because it’s delicious. That’s why.

The Service:

La Puerta had a very family feel to it, especially when co-owner Catherine runs the front of house while her husband Oscar runs the kitchen. They were friendly, and Catherine easily chatted to groups of diners throughout the evening. I’m not sure whether this would change with hired guns (we didn’t see any other waitstaff in the small restaurant assisting Catherine) but so far, the small team just means that it’s all personal and cozy.

Value for money:

You’re probably looking at a $30 per diner range, not counting the drinks, and I think that’s fairly reasonable for a night out in Neutral Bay. I can’t say that it’s the most value for money dining given that there are more choices in the city for a lower price tag, but I do think that the South American cuisine is underrepresented in Sydney, which makes La Puerta worth a try.

The Vibe:

Located just off a busy street, La Puerta gave me a sense of a little hidden corner where you can have dinner and conversation, and unwind after a long day’s work. The sense of family makes everything really comfortable, and Catherine’s easy charm makes for a very relaxing evening.

And finally,

The criticisms of my South American friend made this review a hard one to write. For me, the experience was more about the warmth of the service than the food, but I didn’t think that there was much to complain about either. It was nice, but not stellar, and to be honest I don’t have enough experience to give a good critique on its authenticity.

I guess that’s the thing with cultural foods: whether or not it’s “authentic”, as long as it speaks to you, it works. Sure, it won’t work for everyone, but I like that La Puerta wasn’t trying to sell a particularly authentic take anyway. They want it to be an accessible version of their home favourites, and I walked away wanting to try more South American cusine.

Mission accomplished.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of La Puerta.
La Puerta
5/2A Waters Rd
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Phone: +61 2 9953 8367

La Puerta Latino Flavours Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Loco for…Coco Cubano, Ryde

El pollo frito, Coco Cubano, Ryde. Sydney Food Blog Review by Tammi Kwok

When I first saw Coco Cubano, all I knew was that you could order a Cuban cigar with your hot chocolate. I don’t smoke, and the hot chocolate was okay, but not great, so I left it at that.

Today, many branches later, Coco Cubano is offering up much more than hot chocolate and cigars – though the cigars are still there for sure – and I was lucky enough to be invited to try out the new menu!

The menu:


Havana Dip Plate


El pollo frito
Chilli caramel pork belly
Cuban fried rice
Tropical prawn salad


Arroz con pollo
Pork ropa vieja
Beef short ribs
The Cubano


Garden salad


Citrus cheesecake


Salted Caramel Espresso Martini
Chocolate & Rum washed “brownie”
Triple chocolate batido crazy shake
Salty dulce de leche crazy shake

The Food:

There was just SO MUCH of it. As statistics would dictate, some were good, and others not so much.

Of the good pile, lay the El Pollo Frito, the rice in the Arroz con Pollo and the Buñuelos.

El pollo fritoCoco Cubano, Ryde. Sydney Food Blog Review by Tammi KwokEl Pollo Frito

The El Pollo Frito (fried chicken drumettes with red mojo dipping sauce) had a lovely, seasoned crust that the colonel (or should I say, el presidente) would be proud of. The dipping sauce was similarly flavourful, with a great balance of sweet, tangy and savoury. Sure, the drumettes themselves could use a little brining themselves, but otherwise it was pretty nice.

Arroz con pollo, Coco Cubano, Ryde. Sydney Food Blog Review by Tammi KwokArroz con pollo

The Arroz con Pollo (Cuban spiced half chicken with brown Sofrito rice) had fabulous rice that was light, delicately flavoured with separated grains. Nice work. The chicken though, came off a little dry, but for me, the rice more than makes up for it.

Buñuelos, Coco Cubano, Ryde. Sydney Food Blog Review by Tammi Kwok Buñuelos

And the Buñuelos? Donut + Chocolate = always a winner. The donut was a touch stiff for me, but I loved the crunch of cinnamon sugar on the outside, and then the richness of the thick, flowing molten milk chocolate that I can dip it into.

Of the not-so-good, the Cuban fried rice, the Chilli Caramel Pork Belly and The Cubano. Every thing else is – in the words of every competition reality TV show judge ever – “safe“.

Cuban fried rice, Coco Cubano, Ryde. Sydney Food Blog Review by Tammi KwokCuban fried rice

The Cuban Fried Rice (with chorizo, chargrilled corn and black beans) would have been better off labeled just rice and beans. It had the texture of risotto, which completely threw me off the expectation of fried rice. It was pretty heavy, and when compared to the rice of the Arroz Con Pollo, just didn’t make the cut.

Chilli caramel pork belly, Coco Cubano, Ryde. Sydney Food Blog Review by Tammi KwokChilli caramel pork belly

The Chilli Caramel Pork was almost too sweet, or not sweet enough. It was like eating pork belly (albeit tender and nicely cooked pork belly) that had been sprinkled with sugar. It didn’t quite have the hit of dark rich tones of caramel, and there wasn’t an element of salt to balance out what sweetness was there. The chilli also wasn’t particularly present, but that could also be because my Asian chilli sensors have been used and abused over the years.

The Cubano, Coco Cubano, Ryde. Sydney Food Blog Review by Tammi KwokThe Cubano

And if you’ve seen Chef (the movie that taught us you needed to neither have looks nor personality to land Scarlett Johansen, you only need to know how to cook), you would probably have a super romantic idea of the Cubano, which at its core is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. A BANGIN’ toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Here it was a bit, um, bready, and the cheese say limply on the ham and pork, but was neither melty nor luscious. The side fries, though, were shoestring, and so have my seal of approval just for that.

The Service:

It’s a bit hard to comment on the service because we were there for a menu launch, but I did have a particularly friendly waiter who was hilariously cheeky and made sure we felt right at home. It was also a great ice breaker that he had a name tag that said “Awesome”.

Well, if the shoe fits, right?

The other service team members were friendly enough, but mostly just seemed rather green and just a little lost. Maybe it was the event setting that they weren’t used to, but when compared to Mr. Awesome, they just sort of faded into the background.

Value for money:

It’s not the cheapest meal out there, with mains sitting at the $25-$35 mark. But then again, they aren’t advertising value so much as they’re advertising an experience. In this case, it’s a bit middle of the road: the food wasn’t particularly authentic or punchy, but they weren’t charging you CBD prices for it. It would make more sense if you were dining in a group, in this sense, and if the group wanted a Cuban-lite experience that wasn’t too exotic.

The Vibe:

When we went, they had a BALLER singer/guitarist playing. He was as Australian as they come, but he really brought a Latin American vibe to the whole place. The mood lighting and dark wood also brought forth visions of smoky clubs in 1930s Havana, and really add fuel to all the Dirty Dancing fantasies you might have (the sequel, I mean. Don’t judge me!). The space may not actually be conducive to dancing, but doesn’t mean you can’t pretend!

And finally,

So the goss from Mr. Awesome is that the kitchen team was very nervous about the new menu, also because they were coming together as a new team. Fair enough. Some things can take a while to settle in and because this is the launch of something new, I can take that into account. I had a good time there, and while I didn’t get what I think would be an authentic Cuban experience there (I’m happy to give the oppression a pass), I went in knowing that an authentic Cuban experience wasn’t what they were offering up anyway.

Like I said, if you’re celebrating in a group that has polarised tastes and likes a very… gentle introduction, this is a safe bet. Otherwise, maybe stick to the hot chocolate and cigars. Hard to go wrong, there.

Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Coco Cubano.
Coco Cubano
Ground Floor, Top Ryde Shopping Centre
Corner Blaxland & Devlin Street
Ryde, NSW
Phone: 02 8279 9239

Coco Cubano Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato