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Jul 11, 2013 09:05 PM

Toro's Paella: Unbeatable in My Book

Thurs night,7/11/13. They opened the doors at 5:30 and filled the place.
At 5:45, we got the last 2 indoor seats- those horribly uncomfortable
plank-seated stools at the window counter (one plus about this location- less noise than other spots in the cacaphony.)
Briefly: service was excellent, food and bar terrific.

Very good:
Tuna ceviche in coconut milk,chiles, scallion
Foie gras with hazelnut praline crumble and cider vinegar gastrique
Roast Veal w/ chanterelles and edamame
Ham, cheese potato croquette

Red Sangria- full bodied, fruity and dry; no soda water, and not cloyingly sweet
That signature grilled corn with spicy mayo, queso fresco, lime
(not good to order in the winter but really great now)
That Catalan Eggplant .........sigh............
Suquet of seafood w/ romesco
Paella Valenciana w/ seafood and chorizo

It's possibly faulty memory, but i didn't know you could get 1/2 portions of paella there.
We ordered the half and it was perfect size when preceded by all our other tapas.
I have had Toro's paella a number of times over the years; last time the rice had a very burnt bottom crust that ruined it(i returned it) but tonight's was the pinnacle of perfection.
(I'm guessing that they cooked it in another pan and transferred it into the pan i rcv'd.) It was so moist with saucy binder and filled with chorizo, shrimp, lobster, clams, chicken (we nixed the mussels.) The ultimate example of Sabrosa! I would be so happy to eat this once a week. Next time we'll aim for a Tues/Wed just before 5:30.

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  1. Ah, Toro. You are so awesome, yet such a pain in the ass.

    I don't personally mind those plank seats up front. They have the virtue of a street view, and they are defensible, unlike most other spots in the bar, where it's eat or be eaten for personal space. At the window, someone leaning into you is pushing you into the window, and that's obviously not cool.

    Glad you got the escalivada catalana, one of my very favorite dishes there. Toro's specials keep giving you good reasons to try new things, but I do love having something extraordinary yet simple like that eggplant dish as a constant there. I find it hard not to order it on most visits, whether I'm squeezing in for a quick drink and snack or staying longer for a real meal. It's like a really old friend that I need to see several times a year, unlike most of my really old friends.

    On a side note, I'd say Estragon's paella valenciana is at least the equal of Toro's, and you can get it served to you most nights without too many people crushing into your personal space.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      not everybody can get to dinner at 5:30, so why is the 2-3 hour wait at neptune so onerous, while the wait at toro rarely gets a mention on here?

      i'd say the level of food is on par.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I rarely opine on Toro without noting the onerous waits. I like the place a lot, but as with Neptune, I generally go on my own, as scoring a single bar seat is about the only way to avoid long waits outside of very narrow, not very convenient time windows.

    2. You don't like the burnt rice at the bottom? That's my favorite part of the paella at Toro.

      25 Replies
      1. re: mkfisher

        Yeah, the crunchy rice is pretty much a given on a good paella.

        1. re: Alcachofa

          considered a great delicacy in Spain and the best part of the paella.

          1. re: Madrid

            Madrid, crunchy or burnt and infusing the whole dish with burnt?

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              very crunchy and a bit burnt is fine, but if the whole dish tastes like burnt, no. I've made soups "burnt" before by stirring up burnt bits into the liquid and it's not good. but since paella gets crunchy when the liquid gets infused and evaporated,and is usually not stirred I would think it's harder to get an entire paella tasting burnt. I'm sure it could happen though, I've just never seen or tasted it or even heard of it happening until this post.

              1. re: Madrid

                only on CH could we have this conversation! but............ i don't know why crunchy bottom-of-the-pan rice has to be burnt. i don't think it does. That wonderful irani rice and potato dish is famous for the 'everyone fights for it' crunchy bottom, but it is NOT supposed to be burnt. i think the burning happens when chefs are so crazy busy (as at Toro) they can't watch over the dish that closely.

                but i may be particularly sensitive to burnt tastes. One of my pet peeves is wood grilled bread or seafood that has black burnt bars or patches on it; for me, the tastes of these foods are too subtle to not be overwhelmed by the acridity of burnt bits.

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  if this dish was chinese, i would think that the bits should be dark brown with perhaps a touch of black.

                  if it is supposed to be burnt, then the spanish have something to learn

                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                    Are you alleging the Spanish don't know how to cook? Interesting.

                  2. re: opinionatedchef

                    Then ordering a paella with part of the dish expecting to be crunchy / burnt coveted rice bottom seems unwise. Mentioning your sensitivity to the wood grilling of a bread, or the crunchy / burnt rice bottom of a paella would have been appreciated when they took your order.

                    1. re: kewpie

                      The socarrat is supposed to be crunch NOT burnt.

                2. re: opinionatedchef

                  The bottom of a paella should be crispy (socarrat) but not actually blackened and burnt. Burnt means they went to far. In fact a proper socarrat is one of the defining characteristics of a truly correct paella. But if it is blackened and burnt, then they potentially ruined the paella.

                  It is VERY tricky to get just right, and really should be done over a wood fire, outdoors.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    "and really should be done over a wood fire, outdoors."

                    Yes, and why I think it is silly to expect too much from a paella in a tapas bar. Srsly. But better to undercook, as mk has experienced, than burn it, I suppose.

                    Sorta back on topic: I wish I could eat the pan con tomate every day.

                    1. re: Alcachofa

                      Pan con tomate with great olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt...

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        I've been making this at least once a week, guests absolutely love it.

                    2. re: StriperGuy

                      black is ok only if squid ink is in it! toasty crispy is burnt to some, kind of like bacon preferences.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        I don't know if Puerto Ricans call it socarrat, and it wasn't paella, but I just had some superb "crunchy rice" in the "arroz relleno" at Casa B. (It was a special; not the other "rellenos" on their regular menu.)

                        It was my first time to Casa B and cannot wait to go back. Everything was excellent.

                          1. re: Alcachofa

                            It's called pegao in Puerto Rico. Concón in the Dominican Republic. Raspa in Cuba. Cucayo and Pega in Colombia. :)
                            And of course Persians take rice crust to another level with tahdig.

                            1. re: saria

                              That's right, pegao (which is just a slangification of the Spanish pegado which means literally, "stuck.)

                              1. re: saria

                                Oh yum, anywhere around here to get tahdig?

                            2. re: StriperGuy

                              2nd, it should be crisp with some light color, it isn't paella without socarrat.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                that is how the chinese try to do it, also, browned but not burnt..

                                1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                  Yes, the Chinese *try*, but the Spanish *do*.

                            3. re: Madrid

                              I actually find from time-to-time that the paella at Toro is under cooked because they're so busy and only working with a limited supply of paella pans.

                              1. re: mkfisher

                                I've always thought the timing is difficult and you need really intuitive experts, of which I am not one! Some recipes for non Spanish amateurs suggest finishing it in the oven. Classic is cooked over a wood fire.

                          2. re: mkfisher

                            Fans of rice crust should also consider Kaju Tofu House, which serves its side of rice in a very hot claypot and leaves a bit on the bottom to brown at your table. They'll come by later to loosen it with a pour of barley tea. Nice.


                          3. So, wanting to go there and 5:30pm on a Sat night being not possible, if we want to dine on a Sat and show up at 6:30pmish what is our reality? If we go later on a Friday night, say 10pm would they be out of the top sellers (corn, etc.)?

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: itryalot

                                They don't sell out of stuff from my experience.

                                The waits work like this: If you miss the first wave of seating (essentially as soon as they start seating people for dinner service), you're instantly looking at 1.5 hours. So at 6:30, you very well could be looking at a 2 - 3 hour wait. At 10pm there will still be a wait, but I'd be surprised if it's over an hour. Another option is that there's a separate wait list for the bar. Might work if you're a party of 2 and don't mind getting bumped while you eat. You can always go for brunch on Sunday. That's not nearly as crowded.