Where: Toro - 1704 Washington Street, Boston MA
When: May, 2012
Toro, one of the most talked about Boston restaurants, has been on my “must-go” list since they opened. The need to get to Toro only increased after seeing chef Jamie Bissonnette on the Food Network’s Chopped (he also won Food & Wine’s 2011 People’s Best New Chef award) and after going to Coppa, Jamie’s and Ken Oringer’s other restaurant, which was fantastic.
I got plenty of warnings about the extra long wait times so we made sure to head over right after work on a Tuesday to be safe. We were seated immediately as they had plenty of open tables (which did not last long). We sat at one of the large family style tables in the middle of the room where I strategically placed myself facing the open kitchen. The only complaint we had was that there wasn’t a place to hang our jackets or put our bags so we had to put them on the floor (thank goodness we weren’t in Brazil as that’s a clear “I’m a prostitute and available” signal). We started off with Gypsys all around. Whats a Gypsy, you ask? Its a delicious cocktail of Death’s Door gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and St Germain. Its so good, in fact, that I had another two which made me the friendliest person in the room chatting with our neighbors as well as asking our server to introduce me to Jamie Bissonnette, who I could see was working in the open kitchen. He said I could just go up and say hi myself but, oh no, I needed an introduction. This was a big deal! I got one and Jamie was super nice as I gushed about what a big fan I am. At this time our dinner neighbors leaned over to my friends to announce that Jamie is married so I just want to reassure everyone jumping to any conclusion that even though he seems like a lovely person, its his food skills that I am completely lusting over.
We decided to pick two items off the menu each so we would have a variety of tapas to try. And this is what we got…
Boquerones – White anchovies in vinegar and olive oil. In 2011 I took on two new lovers: anchovies and oysters. I almost don’t remember what I was like before these life changing foods came into my life but I am sure I was not nearly as happy. That being said, I had to get the anchovies and introduce Daniela to them, who I believe may be a new fan. These were great, nice and salty and perfect alone or with some of the bread served with our tapas.
Queso de Cabra – Vermont goat cheese with pistachios and tomato honey. There isn’t much that makes my mouth water more than the combination of cheese and honey so I was really excited about this dish. The cheese was great as were all the components but I found myself wishing out loud for MORE tomato honey and MORE pistachios.
Tortilla Espanola – Egg, potato and onion omelet with aioli. This dish was Daniela’s choosing, saying Tortilla Espanola may be one of her favorite dishes ever. No pressure, Toro. No pressure. I generally like Tortilla Espanolas but its not something really crave worthy for me so I was really surprised by how much I loved this one. The tortilla was really moist and creamy. Just lovely. The aoili, which came on a few of the dishes was a really great compliment for it and just the right amount of garlic. I could eat that shit on everything!
Datiles con Jamon – Medjool dates filled with Marcona almonds and Cabrales blue cheese, wrapped in Jamon Serrano. Holy moley, guys. These dates were phenomenal! Seriously. They were so good that before leaving I insisted that our new dining neighbors get them. Insisted. The saltiness of the ham with the sharpness of the cheese with the sweetness of the dates all came together really well. My only complaint is that there were only two of them; I could have eaten a half dozen easily. I’m a little embarrassed to say that between three college educated, well traveled, career women we couldn’t figure out what dates are. Were they dried plums? No, those are prunes. Dried figs? No… I had to google it to find out that dates are… dates. Waking up and opening my safari browser to find “Whats a date?” made me feel like a genius.
Asado de Huesos – Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade. The bone marrow was Olivia’s pick and although none of us really knew what to expect, I was looking forward to trying something new. I had never had bone marrow before and expected it to be somewhat mousse-like for whatever reason. It was not mousse-like at all, it was fat -ike. Very very fat-like. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it after the first bite but after the second I decided bone marrow is not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love fat but this was just too much for me. The oxtail marmalade on the other hand, I could eat by the bowlful.
Anna’s Empanadas – Chicken and potato empanadas with salsa rojo and aioli. I’m dying to know what sort of pastry these empanadas are made of as it wasn’t at all what I expected. In high school, in Panama, I would take my $1 a day lunch money to buy two empanadas from Oscar’s food cart (and spend the rest of cigarettes – $.10 each) and they were these really flaky buttery pastries. That’s what I always tend to expect when I hear empanadas but this was different – they almost tasted as though the pastry was made with corn or yuca or something. I could be off but either way, they were really good. And, again, they came with that phenomenal aioli.
Maiz Asado con Aioli y Queso Cotija – La Especialidad de la Casa. Grilled corn with aioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese. Amy first introduced me to Elote at Ole in Cambridge and since then I have been hooked. I even have a couple recipes saved but something about smothering corn with cheese and mayo at home just seems a little too indulgent to me. This was super messy but equally delicious so was happy to have aioli across my cheeks for the experience.
Churros with chocolate sauce. Toro has one dessert and that’s all they need. The churros are light and fluffy on the inside and the chocolate sauce rich and velvety. We actually all agreed that although the chocolate sauce was delicious the churros were so good that we preferred them on their own. That’s saying something.
Overall, I thought the service and atmosphere at Toro was great. The drinks were delicious (and helped me meet a famous chef as well as have a heart to heart with a very sweet homeless man, Ritchie, on my way home). The food was all very well prepared and flavorful. I’d recommend it for a group of friends or coworkers or even on a date although be warned that a community table isn’t particularly cozy or romantic. I’d definitely go back but I do not think I would wait hours in their famous lines for a table. Don’t get me wrong, its great food but Boston has enough great restaurants that I am rarely willing to wait more than 20 minutes to be seated.