Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Toro! Toro! Toro!

When you talk to people about Boston restaurant chefs one the main names that continually pops up is Ken Oringer.  With a variety of restaurants that cover a number of price points, you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy his food.  The tough past most of the time is actually getting a seat!  For quite some time I have been wanting to go to Toro, but I kept hearing stories about extremely long wait times, so we kept putting it off.  For my birthday this year I decided to bite the bullet and just go and see how the night went!

On a Friday after work I arrived at Toro at 5:10.  Obviously I am a little too Type-A to really gamble with getting a table on a Friday night!  The restaurant doesn't start seating people until 5:30, but they welcomed me in and I grabbed a seat at the bar and started to look over the cocktail list.  There were a couple other crazy people like me, so I felt slightly validated.  After a little deliberation I went with the Mamacita, a mixture of tequila, agave, lime, and tecate served on the rocks in a glass with a salted rim.  This was the perfect mix of refreshment with a bit of a kick to help start the evening off right.

A view of the restaurant
The bar...
Nick arrived around 5:30 and grabbed a drink at the bar.  Though we had put our name on the list, we originally planned to wait a bit and enjoy our cocktails.  However, shortly after Nick got his drink we noticed the tables were almost full, and at 5:45 we were given the last available table (people here are NOT messing around!)

Please forgive the dark photos.  Even though it was still light out, it felt like it was late evening inside.

Toro is a Barcelona-style tapas restaurant, so the food consists of traditional and non-traditional spanish tapas.  I always find that good (i.e., authentic) tapas are hard to find, so I was eager to see how Oringer would do conquering this faire.  The Toro menu is split into a few sections: cold tapas, hot tapas, small plates (smaller than traditional tapas size), and entrees meant for sharing.  Wanting the full experience, we decided to try a bit from every part of the menu.

Starting very traditional, we went with the Jamon Serrano Redondo Iglesias, a premium dry cured ham.  I remember walking down the streets in Spain and seeing the ham hang in the window (think peking duck in Chinatown, but ham instead!) and between the taste and look, this definitely seemed authentic!  There was so much flavor in each slice, which readied our pallets for the rest of the meal.

Next came the Uni Bocadillo, a pressed uni sandwich with miso butter and pickled mustard seeds.  This was one of the recommandations from Toro on Twitter so naturally we had to order it.  This sandwich packed a whole lot of flavor with only a few ingredients.  The mustard seeds had a tang that contrasted with the soft richness of the miso butter.

Uni Bocadillo
One of the first dishes I had heard about from Toro that seems to leave the biggest impression on people is the Bone Marrow, served in the bone with a radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade.  This was one of my favorite dishes the evening.  The marrow was creamy and delicious as I expected.  However, the oxtail marmalade was surprisingly the highlight for me.  The richness of the oxtail with the smooth marrow made for an especially harmonious bite every time.

Asado de Huesos
Next up was the corn.  I was looking forward to this dish, served with alioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese.  While extremely messy to eat, this dish did not disappoint and was worth the total mess I made of myself!  The sharpness of the cheese and the acid from the citrus added a good bit of a snap to the corn.

Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija
Next up was a staple dish that I get anywhere tapas are served: griddled garlic shrimp with cascabel chilies.  However, this dish was better than I have had.  This non-traditional take on a very traditional tapas dish was something special.  The shrimp were bursting with flavor and the sauce was something that I could not get enough of.  I used every last scrap of bread to wipe the bottom of the bowl to make sure I did get it all!

Gambas al Ajillo 
It would not have been a Spanish restaurant without ordering some Paella.  Toro offers a vegetarian variety, but we had to get the Valenciana - I wanted the seafood!  With its mixture of shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo, chicken, and Calasparra rice, the strong saffron taste and the lovely crust on the bottom were signs that this was a GOOD paella.  With so much going on in the dish, it took a bit of navigating to make sure we fully tasted the dish!  We may have gotten another round of bread at this point in order to get the remaining bits of this amazing sauce.  We split the half order and it was the perfect cap to our meal.

Valenciana Paella 
Trying to get a bit of a veggie into this meal, we got an order of the cauliflower with pine nuts, golden raisins, and pimenton de la vera (sweet paprika).  This was a lovely dish to round out our meal with its paprika flavoring (after all, its one of my new favorite spices!).

Coliflor a la Plancha
At some point in the evening I ordered a glass of sangria (another must at a Spanish restaurant!).  Like everything else, this was an authentic interpretation of the drink that was not too sweet like so many versions can be.  This had a great balance that I enjoyed in every sip.

Even though we had enough food to more than satisfy, it was just so good we had to get some dessert because it was bound to be just as delicious!  We decided on an order of churros, warm and soft and covered in cinnamon and sugar.  The chocolate dipping sauce served on the side was nice and warm and gave just a little extra richness.  I'm so happy we decided to order!

Toro definitely did not disappoint, delivering some of the best tapas and Spanish dishes I have had outside of Spain!  I cannot believe I waited this long to check it out.  The food is totally worth arriving early for (my fellow Type-A folks) or waiting around for (i.e., more laid-back people).  Oringer yet again fully delivers on the restaurant from start to finish and this one definitely does not completely break the bank!  I would highly recommend getting to Toro if you can.

Where do you go for tapas?

Toro on Urbanspoon


  1. I love Toro, and I love how early you arrived. That is totally something I have done. Nothing wrong with helping them open. :)

  2. It's a travesty I have not been here, especially considering my affection for tapas! I definitely need to go.

  3. So far, Toro has my favorite tapas in town. I know it's not traditional, but I fell in love with that uni bocadillo!!

  4. I love love love Toro Toro Toro :). Fantastic review. Thank you.

  5. Wow, sounds like I really need to check this place out!

  6. I've only been once, years ago. I remember the corn fondly and the cauliflower too.

  7. Glad you had such a good time! I've had some really great food there. I'll have to get the garlic shrimp some time... haven't tried Toro's version.


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