Porrón & Piña is not even a year old; doors opened at 1 Haynes Street Hartford, in April of 2018. Porrón & Piña, at the time, was Chef Tyler Anderson’s newest venture (its only been ten months and there are new ones). Porrón & Piña consists of one part Spanish inspired restaurant and wine bar and one part coffee/donut shop and bar, both housed separately in the ground floor of the historical Goodwin Hotel. I dined at Porrón on opening night and I have been there for a few events and pop ups but I’ve never had the chance to go crazy and explore the menu in it’s entirety, until now.
During the year prior to Restaurant Porrõn opening, Chef Tyler took a couple impromptu trips to Spain with the intent of re-acclimating himself with the sacred art of cooking authentic, regionally diverse Spanish cuisine and charcuterie. I like to call this his “Ham Study.” Chef Tyler is not the only star on the Porrón Team. Chef Chris Bateman (Paloma, Harlan Brasserie) has been given the task of Executive Chef. Bateman also has strong roots in the hotel restaurant scene (Jumeirah Dubai and Four Seasons Hawaii) exercising various skills ranging from executive chef, restaurant opening and consultation. Heading up the sweets department is everybody’s favorite little churro piper, Pastry Chef Kristin Eddy. Craft cocktail wizard and famous international playboy are adjectives used to describe Bar Director, Tim Cabral (Ordinary). Front of house duties are handled by handsome teen heart throb and late 90’s Disney child actor, General Manager Tim Ratchford while the whole operation is ruled under the iron fist of restaurateur and semi-pro golfer, A.J. Aurrichio.
Now, have you ever been to a spot that lists themselves as a “Spanish Tapas” restaurant but it just doesn’t hit the mark? I think we all have, that will not happen at Porrón. If you have someone in your party that doesn’t eat adventurously, Porrón has excellent menu selections such as salmon, chicken and four different cuts of steak. Date night or business dinner, Porrón emits a young, high-end ambiance matched with a hip vibe that shouldn’t be too much for shrewd parents.
Lets get started…
First we ordered a few small plates and tapas to taste. First was the Patatas Bravas, perfectly crisp in aioli, tomato and paprika. I’ve gotten these before and they are a staple. Next was the Patas de Pato, the smoked duck wings for you laymen not fluent in Catalan! This dish has unofficially taken the face of Porrón due to it being the restaurant’s most photographed menu item. Next was the Ensalada de col Rizada, aka the kale salad, finished with Mahón, lemon, caesar dressing and croutons. I’m not gonna front like I know what Mahón cheese is either, so this is it in a nutshell. Mahón cheese is produced on the island of Menorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands. Menorca is a paradisiacal Biosphere Reserve island located in the Mediterranean Sea. Ok, wtf? In all my years I have never heard or used the word PARADISIACAL. It means “like paradise” idyllic or heavenly, this must be a really nice place. I was also curious as to what the hell a biosphere reserve island was; my best guess is something like Jurassic Park but cheese instead of dinosaurs. Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. I’ll give you one guess which country doesn’t have any. Mahón cheese is also a Protected Denomination of Origin product or P.D.O. This means the product is protected and is true to its name, taste, region and heritage. Sorry for the information session, it’s good to learn new things. Next was a nice little chef’s platter with some jamón Iberico, Benton’s ham, Valdeon blue and Tapping Reeve. Porrón has an ever-changing jamón and queso list so you may not get the same the next time you return, which is good.
Next were the Albondigas en Champignon, or chorizo meatballs stuffed with mushroom, watercress and aged Mahón. These are a must have along with our next entry and probably my favorite menu item, the hamburguesas. This is a hamburger between two pieces of sourdough toast with ham jam, tapping reeve cheese, mustard, onion, cut in four and skewered like a club, so so SO good. Last time I was there I got two orders. Next was the Tortilla Espanola with manchego, crispy shallot and shishito aioli. Now be prepared, this is not what you think, this is not some crispy tortilla dish, this is like a thick slice of pie made out of thinly sliced potatoes, reminiscent to the texture of your mom’s scalloped potatoes. I enjoyed it, but I was totally expecting something else. Next was the Gambas al Ajillo; garlic shrimp, parsnip, yuzu vin and breadcrumbs. I don’t know what it is but I’m just not that into shrimp in my older years. I loved shrimp as a kid; I thought I was balling when I ordered a shrimp cocktail or some scampi. I ate these shrimp because they just looked and smelled so good and they were prepared in a dish with acids and vinegars.
The next two dishes were our entrée portions, sizably different in respect to the tapas. I got the Pollo de Madrid, a split half chicken served with duck rice and brussels sprouts. This was a big dish and since I was starting to burst at the seams and dessert just was in sight, I thought it best to take a few bites for memory and pack it up. For chicken this was really good so I ate it for dinner the next night. My wife ordered the Risotto de Orzo with cauliflower, almonds, giardiniere and black truffle; she loved it and actually said it was her favorite plate on the menu. It worked out perfectly because I do not care for risotto anyway!
Finally we dug into two deserts, two because I’m not writing a review on a restaurant and only eating one. First was the churros, brûléed with cayenne cinnamon sugar, lemon caramel and smoked chocolate sauce. These are a staple and they are done REALLY well. Second was the almond cake with blackberry compote, madeira syrup and vanilla bean whip cream. This was also excellent and was a perfect last taste of the evening. Porrón usually has 4 desserts at any given time that also change seasonally.
Porrón is a great addition to Hartford’s downtown for various reasons, but here are two. First, It is housed inside a luxury hotel and event space with it’s sister donut shop. Secondly, they brought something into downtown that was new and fun, two words that have not been mentioned in the same sentence as “Hartford Downtown” since the Whalers.