Sometimes when I'm dining out in New York, I compare the experience to a date: promising, awful or excellent distraction. El Porron was kind of the latter. While it wasn't bad by any means, it wasn't outstanding either. It served its purpose and the wine selection was good, but the food was just ok. There were only one or two dishes that I would go back for..Cliff (my brother and my date for the evening – sigh) and I tried A LOT of dishes, so we got a pretty good taste for the place.
In terms of decor, I thought it was very inviting and modern. As I mentioned before, the wine list had a nice selection of both red and white, and it wasn't overwhelming. I hate when I go to a restaurant and they set down a menu resembling The Fountainhead filled with wine. And some of them are usually above the $1,000 mark. Sure. I charge coffee every day, but yea, bring on the $1,250 bottle of grapes. I digress. Wine list: good. Lots of spicy reds and cool, crisp whites. I stuck with a nice spicy Rioja.
Here's the food that was memorable and that I would go back for: veal meatballs simmered in a tomato, celery and leek stew topped with slivered almonds – tender, savory and delicious. Also the Pollo Con Pisto was good; the chicken was very tender and the ratatouille of eggplant, tomato, zucchini and squash was perfectly seasoned. The other dish I would run back for? The red wine-soaked french toast for dessert. YUM. Never heard of that one before and definitely never would have thought about doing that but DAMN that was good stuff. It's served with ice cream and topped with a sweetened red wine at the table when it arrives. We went at that thing like two rabid dogs attacking a small bird. I almost lost a finger.
The rest of the food we tried was good, but nothing made me go "wow" like the french toast did. The salmon had a nice taste, but it was a bit overcooked, and the butterflied shrimp with bacon special was tasty (can't go wrong with bacon), but the portion was really small. I know, I know; it's tapas, but that doesnt mean that after 6 or 7 different plates you should still be hungry. If it weren't for the desserts (french toast and empanadas filled with what I believe was mascarpone cheese and drizzled with a raspberry sauce), I probably would have had more tapas.
If I found myself in Sutton Place/UES (El Porron is on 61st and 1st) and craving some wine and a few small bites (read: not TOO hungry), then I would probably go back. I just wish that their portions were a little bigger for the price. They do make entrees though, which I didn't try any of, but all of their entrees you can order as tapas as well, which is nice because a lot of tapas restaurants dont do that. I'll give them an "A" for effort, but El Porron misses the mark a little on consistency.