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TORO: Great experience; Much Improved

opinionatedchef Feb 4, 2008 10:50 PM

whenever toro opened, we went there twice in its first year. we had a few excellent things, but my memory is of more 'meh's than 'great's. Two weeks ago, that all changed. four of us ordered LOTS of things. the highlights were: almost every single one! Wow, how often can an opinionated chef say that? ! As usual, we ordered enough for an army (we only pass this way once, right?).

My favs were:
#1 believe or not- The Eggplant -of all things! the description reads awfully simple- red onion, red peppers, roasted garlic sherry vngr, evoo.Nonetheless, my fav eggplant experience ever.

other greats: quail, beef short ribs,foie gras(the smaller plate version), paella valenciana.

saltcod fritters were very good but not outstanding like the above. decomposed beet salad
with chevre and sweetened hazelnuts was fine but i didn't think the sweetness worked.
corn was definitely not good this time of year; while it had been super in season.
Sangria was v good and neither too sweet (so common in restaurants here) or thinned down w/ club soda/ fizzy.

service was terrific and friendly( as it had been in previous visits.)

can't wait to go back.

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  1. MC Slim JB RE: opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2008 05:20 AM

    Had a very solid experience at Toro recently, too. I couldn't muster much love for the place despite regular visits over its first six months or so, but it eventually won me over with more consistent cooking, and my own conclusion that dining at the bar there is more fun.

    I also had that escalivada (eggplant dish); it's one of my faves there, a rustic, simple joy. There's a relatively new dish on the menu (or maybe I just noticed it) that's worth checking out, some expertly-fried empanadas of chicken and potato with a green tomato sauce.

    An interesting item from their cocktail list: an "AviaciĆ³n". This is a riff on the classic Aviation cocktail of gin, lemon juice, and Maraschino liqueur, one of those cocktails I like to make for friends who think they hate gin (they rarely dislike this drink). The Toro variant replaces the lemon juice with a top layer of lemon foam which has a texture somewhere between meringue and tapioca. You have to sip through this layer and take a bite of it to get the full Aviation flavor palette. I'm often leery of molecular-gastronomic flourishes like this in cocktails -- the result is more often a showy mess than a well-balanced drink -- but this one works. It's probably better as a dessert drink than an aperitif (the overall effect is sweeter than an Aviation), but it's a clever and quite tasty reinterpretation.

    1. r
      raddoc RE: opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2008 05:43 AM

      I have to say it: a decomposed beet salad doesn't sound that appetizing. perhaps a deconstructed one, though ;o)

      2 Replies
      1. re: raddoc
        sailormouth RE: raddoc Feb 5, 2008 06:16 AM

        I rather like the rank steak myself.

        Anyhoo, the dates with serrano ham, almond and cheese is one of the best flavor profiles I have ever encountered, especially with such simple ingredients. It's one of those few dishes that are so good you get happy with just a taste.

        1. re: raddoc
          opinionatedchef RE: raddoc Feb 5, 2008 06:31 PM

          ha ha!! you got me! but you know i must have been thinking 'composed salad' , which is, of course the expression. so isn't it funny that it's not 'constructed salad' to segue into 'deconstructed' ? ha!

        2. f
          Fort Point RE: opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2008 06:28 AM

          How is the crowd there now? The only time we were there people were hanging over our shoulders to see when we about to take our last fork full because they wanted our seats at the bar. Is the crowd any more civil?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Fort Point
            MC Slim JB RE: Fort Point Feb 5, 2008 06:40 AM

            I don't think that kind of rude person is somehow magnetically drawn to Toro; they're everywhere in the city. The place can definitely be a pain when it is crowded, especially with folks hovering in the cramped bar area. We avoid it at peak periods for exactly this reason.

            1. re: MC Slim JB
              kweesee RE: MC Slim JB Feb 5, 2008 05:25 PM

              does toro take reservations? i want to go with a group of 6-8

              1. re: kweesee
                MC Slim JB RE: kweesee Feb 5, 2008 05:50 PM

                I'm pretty sure they do not. But it's always worth calling to check.

                1. re: kweesee
                  NiKoLe1625 RE: kweesee Feb 6, 2008 04:50 PM

                  they don't take them...unfortunately the only way to get a "reservation" there is to know someone. for that many people, i would suggest getting there early.

            2. firelight1016 RE: opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2008 07:08 AM

              I love Toro! I've actually never had a bad experience there- and try to stop in whenever I'm in Boston.

              My faves are the Gambas al ajillo, the grilled corn, and the paella valenciana. Last time I was there, we tried the chickpeas with chorizo- those were delicious as well. I don't know if the grilled razor clams are a regular menu item, but the first time I went there I ordered them at the bar and they were awesome. Can't really go wrong, either, with a nice dish of the marinated olives (lemon, red pepper flakes, and maybe something else) and some patatas bravas. Their cocktail list is pretty interesting, as well- I liked that they tip their hat to the 'ghetto drink' of Spain- the calimocho! Red wine and coke=awesome. We used to get big boxes of Don Simon 69pta wine and Kas and drink it various parks around Spain when I lived there in 2002!

              3 Replies
              1. re: firelight1016
                MC Slim JB RE: firelight1016 Feb 5, 2008 07:20 AM

                Toro's also one of the few places that serves tinto de verano (cheap red wine and lemon-lime soda), a summer cooler that I pretty much only saw locals drinking in Spain, while the tourists drank sangria.

                1. re: MC Slim JB
                  firelight1016 RE: MC Slim JB Feb 5, 2008 07:34 AM

                  Another beverage concoction that struck me as odd when I lived in Spain was the light beer + selzer water/club soda thing. Doubt they have that at Toro!

                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    StriperGuy RE: MC Slim JB Feb 5, 2008 07:59 AM

                    If you go to an old school lunch joint in Spain usually with a prix-fix menu, the classic thing they do is to put a bottle of cheap red wine on the table and a bottle if the very slightly lemony soda. You can have as much of either as you want.

                2. s
                  Sagoo RE: opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2008 08:13 AM

                  Clearly this place must be great since I encountered a two+ hour wait for three people at 7:10 on Saturday night.

                  Had a great meal at B+G Oysters instead. Are the wait times more manageable on weeknights?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Sagoo
                    MC Slim JB RE: Sagoo Feb 5, 2008 08:31 AM

                    I don't think long lines are necessarily a reliable indicator of greatness. The Copley Cheesecake Factory regularly has lines out the door.

                    But yes, weeknights are far easier. I tend to go toward the end of service, after 9pm.

                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                      foodiesrus RE: MC Slim JB Feb 5, 2008 10:00 AM

                      One of my favorite/most memorable dining experiences was at Toro. Haven't been back, not in the area often, but will never forget it!

                    2. re: Sagoo
                      opinionatedchef RE: Sagoo Feb 5, 2008 06:35 PM

                      we four arrived at 7 and got the last table; no waiting line. 6 is better; then you can likely get a real table instead of the less comfortable stool tables.

                    3. NiKoLe1625 RE: opinionatedchef Feb 5, 2008 12:00 PM

                      Went to Toro this past weekend for the first time... it was FANTASTIC! My friends and I split a few tapas: the mini burgers, the chopped salad, the hot peppers, the salt cod fritters, the marinated olives, and the brussels sprouts. I would have to say that the peppers and the brussels sprouts were among my favorites. The cod fritters were good, but not the best I'v had... too much potato and not enough cod!
                      We all also split a paella that was outstanding! The wine list was also very good, although we were somewhat disappointed by the fact that they only had one bottle left of the wine we were drinking.
                      Overall, great meal and i will definitely go back!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: NiKoLe1625
                        heypielady RE: NiKoLe1625 Feb 5, 2008 01:36 PM

                        I also had a great experience at Toro. They are one of the few tapas restaurants around here that actually serve spanish chorizo. It really irks me when a Spanish restaurant puts chorizo on the menu and then gives me kielbasa or linguica or something like that.

                        1. re: heypielady
                          Boston Scene RE: heypielady Feb 6, 2008 11:40 AM

                          Tapeo has the real macoy as well... as printed on their menu
                          Chorizo a la Plancha- Grilled Spanish Sausage

                          1. re: heypielady
                            MC Slim JB RE: heypielady Feb 6, 2008 12:21 PM

                            Do you happen to recall which Spanish restaurant served you something that they called chorizo but wasn't Spanish chorizo? That's a rather distinctive sausage: dry, coarse, chewy, smoky, vividly colored by chillies.

                            I can see how some Central or South American restaurants might serve you something called chorizo that might surprise you. Mexican, Dominican and other Americas versions of chorizo tend to be fresh sausages, generally bigger, milder, and made with finely ground rather than coarsely chopped meats. But I've never seen these substituted for true Spanish chorizo at any Spanish restaurant I've been to in Greater Boston, including Dali and its offshoots, Taberna de Haro, or Tasca.

                            1. re: heypielady
                              NiKoLe1625 RE: heypielady Feb 6, 2008 04:52 PM

                              yes... it was great to have real chorizo for a change. i am portuguese so i always appreciate the real thing!

                          2. t
                            tumbledrylow RE: opinionatedchef Feb 7, 2008 12:41 PM

                            I agree - I love Toro. I went recently with a friend and we sat at the long table in the middle and had many snacks along with lots of sangria. The sangria left such an impression on me that I unfortunately can't really comment on the snacks but I can say that service was charming and friendly and when I asked our waitress what she liked about working at Toro (because clearly she was having a good time) she said that the owners are all about the servers having fun so that the customers can have fun too. I liked that philosophy - her friendliness definitely made an impression on me!

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