Restaurant Revolution contestants Maggie Yeong, John McIntosh and Justine Yeong inside their Brisbane restaurant Puerto.
Restaurant Revolution contestants Maggie Yeong, John McIntosh and Justine Yeong inside their Brisbane restaurant Puerto. Paul Broben

Restaurant review: Puerto's menu needs to go back to basics

THE hook of Channel 7's new reality cooking show Restaurant Revolution is that it lets the public taste the food.

The grand openings of the five pop-up restaurants aired last night and the eateries are currently open to the public in five capital cities, where the feedback of diners helps to determine the fate of the five teams of aspiring restaurateurs.

I recently had the opportunity to eat at the show's Brisbane eatery Puerto and the menu threw up a few surprises, not all of them good ones.

Puerto is in a great location in South Bank just opposite the convention centre and QPAC. It is the brainchild of lovebirds Justine Yeong and John McIntosh and Justine's mum Maggie and combines their love of South American cuisine with Maggie and Justine's Asian heritage.

The restaurant itself makes a warm and inviting first impression. Images from Justine and John's travels throughout central and South America hang on the walls and the interior is decked out in the colours, patterns and textures of the American dessert that are so in fashion at the moment.

The east meets west theme of the restaurant was my biggest concern after seeing the first few episodes of the show this week.

But it was Puerto's bizarre menu and inflated prices that overshadowed any doubts over the marrying of satay sauce and salsa.

I learned the contestants were experimenting with a banquet-style menu, as well as a regular menu of snacks and main courses.

After a few minutes of careful study the other surprise was that tacos, which the trio is known for, barely featured on the menu alongside things like braised beef cheek and goat curry.

It was not only confusing but quite expensive with snacks averaging $18 and main dishes $35.

The beef cheek, braised pork and chilli and orange chocolate fondant were the stand-out dishes for me. I found many of the other snacks and mains I sampled lacked a real punch of flavour that I would expect from either Mexican or Asian foods.

My other concern was the size of the main courses, considering their hefty price tags. I would have expected a more generous serving for $35 at a casual restaurant like Puerto.

The wait staff were friendly and attentive so I think the two main barriers to attracting repeat customers will be the prices and the overly complicated menu, both of which can be easily fixed.

I'd eat at Puerto again if I could get just a simple fish taco at a reasonable price.