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Best Tapas in Boston (with super good Paella) :)

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So we're planning Tapas night tomorrow night (Wednesday) and I read on here about Tapeo and Toro.

My friend really likes Paella and loved it at Tapeo...I had heard really good things about Toro from friends but was wondering how the Paella was there and if its something they have all the time or if its a special/seasonal item.

Would love to get people's thoughts on ambience too...I had heard some people mention Toro being super loud but others seem to find it okay...just wanted to know we could all talk and eat w/o having to shout at each other LOL

Creativity gets a plus, but I always value authenticity and home cooked style delivered well too :)

Let me know if there was another I missed out in the consideration...for this time, we're looking at the Back Bay/South End area...

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Toro
1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

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  1. Taberna de Haro if you're willing to take the green line.

    1. For serious Spanish authenticity your top two options in Boston are the aforementioned Taberna de Haro (right where the C line comes above ground in Brookline) and Estragon in the South End. Run, as it happens, by a formerly married couple, Julio and Deborah de Haro (after they split she kept TdH and he opened Estragon).

      Estragon is VERY loud but has a few quieter outdoor tables. Taberna de Haro is smaller and crowded but not quite so ridiculously noisy inside. It also has a much larger outdoor seating area.

      Both have very good Spanish wine lists, though the edge there goes to TdH. Estragon tends to have a slightly more creative menu, where TdH is more traditional.

      They both take reservations (recommended, especially at peak hours) but will not always guarantee an outdoor table.

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      Taberna De Haro
      999 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

      Estragon
      700 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118

      2 Replies
      1. re: BobB

        i like estragon but i'd give the edge on paella to toro, though i recall it is served only for two. taberna makes an interesting squid ink rice paella.

        1. re: teezeetoo

          I also really enjoyed the paella at Toro and its the one I have had in Boston with the nicest socarrat. It is offered in a portion for 2 people and regularly on the menu, but there are specials offered (eg snail and rabbit, etc). There is a chance they may simply be doing like many Spanish restaurants and the order is by the number of people served (eg 2,4,6) with different pan sizes available, but I am also wondering if maybe the 2-person pan is simply what is right for their burner size. It can be louder than Estragon, but both are pretty loud. For the wine list I definately like TdH and Estragon (which isn't as big, but is quite interesting and fairly affordable).

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          Toro
          1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

      2. Thanks for all the reviews on such short notice :)

        Will try out Estragon and Taberna next time...

        But if you had to pick between Tapeo or Toro, is there one you'd lean towards?

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        Toro
        1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

        4 Replies
        1. re: coweepooh

          I doubt you'll find many (any?) people who prefer the food at Tapeo over Toro. The two things Tapeo has going for it is that it's less crowded and not nearly as loud.

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          Toro
          1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

          1. re: mkfisher

            Also, you can make reservations at Tapeo; can't at Toro.

            That said, I vastly prefer the food at Toro.

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            Toro
            1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

            1. re: mkfisher

              totally agree. if you want the better food by far with less noise, go to toro, and early.

              the best spanish food in the city was at Rauxa, Union Square Somerville, with the very gifted chef Jim Becker. Long gone...and much missed. He did a "sol y sombra" paella, saffron rice on one side, squid ink on the other. Amazing. Brilliant food. His vegetarian dishes were amazing.

              What if Ana Sortun and Jim Becker were to open a new Spanish place? Ken Oringer has lots of things down, done very well..but....

            2. re: coweepooh

              There's really no comparison. Toro is head and shoulders better.

              Taberna de Haro, Toro and Estragon are the three best Spanish in town. IMO

              Tapeo is sorta meh, IMO

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              Toro
              1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

            3. Thanks everyone!

              Went to Toro last night at 6:30pm, actually didn't have to wait more than 15-20 min for a table for 2.

              It was loud but we managed to talk LOL

              I thought it was "ok" I'm not sure why but just didn't leave feeling "wowed" by Toro

              I'm a newbie to Paella so I wouldn't judge it based on that but my friend had the Paella recently at Tapeo and he mentioned getting it with noodles as an option and liked the saucing and flavors of the Paella from Tapeo much more. I thought the Paella at Toro was too "sausagey" in flavor and the rice was too hard like it was undercooked?

              But I DID like the dates plate with cheese, the foie gras was delicious and the bone marrow was definitely a stand out (and I usually don't even like bone marrow).

              I guess maybe I'm not seasoned enough for tapas yet or may just not be my thing...but I did have good experiences the few times I had been to Jaleo and Zaytinya in D.C.

              Will try to give Estragon and Taberna de Haro a shot too!

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              Toro
              1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

              15 Replies
              1. re: coweepooh

                Not to pick nits, will, ok, it is, but Tapas and Paella are two WAY different things. Tapas are "covers" i.e. little nibbles that cover one's drink to keep out the flies (even if today's multiple takes on nibbles couldn't function as literal "tapas"). Paella is a HUGE pan of food to serve the entire extended family. Seems like you are asking for the best Spanish restaurant, not the best Tapas.

                1. re: coweepooh

                  Regarding paella, noodles is NOT an option. Rice. It should have strong flavors of saffron and Spanish chorizo sausage and/or pimenton (smoked paprika). Period. Other ingredients are variable. One of the key characteristics of good paella is that it is supposed to have a hard "crust" of rice on the bottom. Glad you liked the "tapas" at Toro, I consider them one of the best restaurants in Boston, based on food. However, if you're looking for tapas like you would get in Spain, I find Estragon to be the most authentic. I've had very disappointing experiences at Taberna De Haro and Tapeo. Dali and Solea have been a little better IMHO. Zaytinya in DC I agree is fantastic, but a whole different animal, being Greek, Lebanese, Turkish-based cuisine. Small Plates DOES NOT EQUAL Tapas. Tapas are from Spain.

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                  Toro
                  1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                  Taberna De Haro
                  999 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                  1. re: phipsi102

                    i agree w/ you completely on what is paella, on toro and on zaitinya, but i would not send anyone to dali or estragon. ever.

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      I'll defend Estragon, though have had some good/excellent meals there and a few misses.

                      Dali however I am not at ALL a fan of: not Spanish, not Tapas, and not particularly good.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        ditto on that. I've had some quite good food at Estragon and respect the kitchen. Not the case at Dali.

                    2. re: phipsi102

                      totally agree on the fact that "small plates DOES NOT EQUAL tapas." Huge pet peeve of mine. I think the OP's friend was thinking of "fideos" (sp?), which is a pasta-based dish that is made in the style of paella. I've had it at Jaleo, and it is quite tasty. I still prefer paella.

                      Toro is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, but I would agree that the paella is not a star of the menu. One thing that may affect your impression of Toro is that it is a Catalan-inspired restaurant, which may be different in style to other Spanish restaurants. Toro's suquet (a traditional Catalan fish stew) is one of the most amazing dishes I've ever had.

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                      Toro
                      1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                      1. re: ecwashere7

                        that's funny, because for us, toro's paella IS a star of the menu. I haven't had better in boston so I'd love to hear where you've had better. we have had so many misses at Toro (and some winners luckily) that, depending on the menu, i have to seriously consider paella instead of small plates when we go there.

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                        Toro
                        1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          I have a different take on both Toro and Estragon, based on a few dozen visits to each (actually more, but that includes a bunch under prior chefs).

                          Folks who hit Estragon in its earliest days had good reason to complain, but since de Haro ditched his opening chef and took the kitchen helm himself, I've found it to be consistently excellent, and occasionally stunning, like when it does a special of whole cuttlefish.

                          I haven't had a dish I'd call sub-par at Toro since Bissonnette took the reins there, love pretty much every single thing on its menu, just find the crowds to be a pain. Bartending at both has also come a long way since their early days, though neither is a place I'd go just to drink; Toro is too crowded, and Estragon is hobbled by a beer-wine-cordial license, though they do wonders within that straitjacket.

                          We are talking Spanish food, so it's not like a lot of wizardly technique is required across the board here. Most home chefs could master pimientos de padron or put out a plate of olives, almonds, ibericos, or white anchovies: quality sourcing is the difference there.

                          Both kitchens have plenty of pro-level tricks, of course; few amateurs will approach Biss's charcuterie or de Haro's pringa or callos. I like Toro's paella a lot, too, even the vegetarian one; a good veggie paella is a small miracle, in my book. I have yet to try the rabbit/snails one, though Bissonnette clearly knows his way around snails, based on a pasta I had at Coppa recently.

                          Anyway, love them both, and Taberna de Haro, too. I'd call Boston lucky to have three great Spanish joints.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                          Toro
                          1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                          Coppa
                          253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Amen to the above. I've found some evenings at Estragon to be better than others and some strikingly excellent but all have been good and I consistently enjoy Toro and rate it's paella the best I've had in Boston though I try to go off hours as I'm not a crowd person.

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                            Toro
                            1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Well said. It used to be the case that I would first walk by Toro and if it was too packed I'd keep walking to Estragon as plan B. I've since come to enjoy them both equally, for different dishes, different drinks and a different experience.

                              To the OP, paella-related, the black rice at Estragon is excellent.

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                              Toro
                              1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                MC with the quality and at that price point for the South End, my experience is contrary to those who complain about Estragon (particularly with several Internet discounts dropping the price siginificantly). The cooking is a bit more homestyle and the service is best described as green (enthusiastic, but lacking in knowlege). It lacks an extensive Spanish wine list and full liquor license, but the selection they have is affordable and interesting so no foul. Right now I am preferring it to TdH and SE offerings at a similar price point such as Union (and wasn't impressed recently with Oishii Boston which can run a lot more). Its not perfect, but I would go there regularly if I lived in the SE. Plus I remember when our choices were Dali, Iruna, and TdH so I am rooting for it to do well. I need a local option for a good sopa de ajo since there isn't even a decent Portuguese version anymore and I am with you on the callos, but not the pringa at Estragon (too sweet with a reduction on one of the ingredients -- cheek/shoulder?).. Toro has a big leg up for me as far as service and with JB in the kitchen, the food was pitch perfect on my last visit -- with a large contingent of young chefs looking over his shoulder (Coppa's service nor the food under his Sous Chef don't compare to Toro but available reservations are nice). The snails in the Paella at Toro are shelled, which surprised me and the rabbit stole the show. I do think its the best paella in town right now, but reserve the right to inflict my own version on friends and family!

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                                Toro
                                1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  well, slim,finally i hear the words that will get me to try estragon again. "ditched his first chef". I know that I have been a vocal naysayer of estragon ever since we had some inexcusably bad dishes and sangria soon after they opened, but i actually have invited CHs,on previous posts, to tell me if the chef had changed, but no one responded. Now that you have said the magic words here, i will try it again. thnx much.

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    Not to cast aspersions on Estragon's opening chef -- it's not like he was incompetent -- I just didn't care for his more creative take on Spanish cuisine, which "don't need no improvin' on", in my opinion. De Haro took the kitchen in a much more traditional direction, one that I prefer.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      When did De Haro take over?

                                      1. re: Angel Food

                                        I'm going to guess about two years ago.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/