It is very, very unusual for a Boston restaurant to consider opening up a second location in New York. I mean, it's New York (!) - one of the most competitive restaurant markets in the country. Yet Toro, a collaboration between James Beard award winners chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, has been thriving in New York. The original Boston location is as busy as ever, commanding hour long waits on any given night.
In fact, the wait time was precisely the reason why it took me so long to finally get myself out to the South End to try this place. Bryan and I really don't like the uncertainty associated with long waits, which is why it sometimes takes us forever to try really popular restaurants. But eventually, we did find a way.
Bryan decided that he wanted to visit Toro on his birthday. It was an extended weekend of eating at all sorts of places that are hard to get into (e.g., we went to Neptune Oyster for lunch). We would show up right at 5:15pm, which is about fifteen minutes before opening. The bar is open all day, so you can enter the restaurant, put your name down, grab a drink and then wait for a table. Our waiting time was capped to 15 minutes, and we were seated right at 5:30pm.
Toro calls itself a "Barcelona style" tapas bar. Having never been to Spain before (I'm working on that one!), I can't exactly comment on its authenticity. I will say that the food at Toro definitely reminds me of other well-regarded Spanish tapas restaurants I've visited in the U.S., such as Jaleo in Washington D.C. and in Las Vegas, Julian Serrano in Vegas, and Michelin starred Casa Mono in New York. The menu is divided into four sections: Pinchos (small snacks), Tapas Frias (cold dishes), which includes Jamones y Charcuteria (ham and charcuterie), Tapas Calientes (hot dishes), and "For Two", which include larger dishes like paellas and a salt crusted sea bass.
We also were drawn to the Uni Bocadillo ($8), a pressed sandwich with fresh uni, miso butter, and pickled mustard seeds. The sandwich was rich and flavorful, with a nice crispy bread exterior and a warm, soft filling. I sort of wished for less bread and more filling, but all in all it had a really nice flavor.
We also ordered the Jamon Blanco ($11), toast topped with La Quercia lardo, marinated Jonah crab, black garlic, crispy shallots and avocado. All the ingredients were super fresh and they went together really, really well (how can you go wrong with crab, avocado, and aromatics?).
From the Tapas Calientes (hot dishes) section, we order a Remolachas a la Plancha ($13), roasted baby beets tossed with chili lime vinaigrette, mint, Thai basil and fried shallots. This dish was also very good, full of fragrant flavors that reminded me of Thailand.
We also ordered the Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija ($8), a signature dish that consists of a Mexican style grilled corn slathered generously with alioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese. The resultant cob is extremely messy to eat but oh-so-tasty and most certainly worth the effort (though at the end of the day, I still prefer my own Taiwanese grilled corn more).
Our final course came from the "For Two" section. We settled on a half portion of Paella Valenciana ($38 whole/ $20), which was a paella (made with Calasparra rice) filled with shrimp, mussels, clams, Spanish pork sausage, and chicken. The flavors were excellent, and I loved how the rice crusted onto the bottom of the pan to form a crispy bottom that's so fun to eat.
The server tempted us with Churros con Chocolat - how could we say no? It was Bryan's birthday, and frankly, Bryan loves churros.