Tapas at Toro

Whenever I talk to anyone about tapas in the Boston area, Toro seems to come up as the place to go. Toro is a collaboration between Boston-super-chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette – can’t go too wrong with that, right?

Matt and I went with our friends Jenn and Andrew on Saturday night, and we didn’t show up until around 6:45 to put in our name for four. That was not smart, apparently. The hostess told us it would be a 2.5 to 3 hour wait!

Well, we waited anyways, and had some drinks at a bar down the street in the meantime. I was really set on eating at Toro. Luckily, we got a call an hour and a half later that our table was already ready.

Our waitress advised us to plan on between two and four tapas per person, so we kind of haphazardly picked a bunch that we could mostly agree on and wound up with 11 (plus a dessert, of course).

I always think that a Spanish restaurant’s Tortilla Espanola is a great measure of how the rest of the food will be, so it was only fitting that it was the first dish to arrive to the table. I thought it was really moist and flavorful, and I was happy to see it served with a nice dollop of rich, garlicky alioli.

The next dish, called Escalivada Catalana, was a creamy mixture of smoked eggplant, onions, peppers, and tomatoes with sherry vinegar and olive oil. It was a little smoky, but had some other flavor that I couldn’t put my finger on. I guess I’ll have to go back and try it again, because it was one of my favorite dishes of the night and I’d love to recreate it at home.

Our next dish was the Pan con Tomate. We already made the mistake of ordering this out of season at Dali, but this version was made much better by the intense amount of good olive oil and salt.

The Queso de Cabra was presented differently from how I usually see it. Instead of swimming in a pool of tomato sauce, the goat cheese was served as-is with a drizzle of tomato honey and crumbled pistachios. I don’t know if I would order this again just because it’s easy to buy good goat cheese and honey, and there are many more interesting dishes on Toro’s menu to try.

Next was the Atun Tartare, which was raw tuna mixed with coconut milk, calamansi lime, mint, and cilantro. It was light and refreshing, although I thought it could have used something crunchy.

I insisted that we order asked if anyone else would try the Uni Bocadillo, described as a pressed uni sandwich with miso butter and pickled mustard seeds. Luckily Andrew was feeling adventerous, because holy yum. The uni taste was very present, but not overwhelming, and was complimented by the earthiness of the miso. The mustard seeds gave it a little zip and the buttery, pressed bread a nice crunch. I’m seriously still dreaming of this sandwich.

The next dish was more traditional: the Patatas Bravas. Toro’s version of the classic fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce was very good. Like tortilla, it was also served with a side of alioli.

The Cauliflower a la Plancha had Matt and me briefly dabbling with the idea of installing a plancha in our apartment kitchen (totally practical). It was beautifully caramelized and served with pinenuts, golden raisins, and pimenton.

I managed to sneak more sea urchin into our meal with the Suquet de Mariscos, which was a Catalan stew of bay scallops, sea urchin, lobster, crab, sunchokes, and romesco. It was topped with some kind of foam, resulting in a not very photogenic dish. Foam aside, the stew was absolutely delicious, and you could really taste the richness that the sea urchin provided.

The Coles de Bruselas a la Plancha (Brussels Sprouts), which were served more simply with just olive oil and sea salt, were less successful. They didn’t get as caramelized as I would have liked and were a little boring compared to our other dishes.

The Filete a la Plancha, an aged strip steak with cabrales butter and red onion marmalade, was another winner. I could have used less of the sweet marmalade and more of the cabrales butter, but the steak was cooked beautifully.

Even though we were stuffed by this point, we split an order of Churros con Chocolate for dessert. I can never pass up a churro. These were a solid version, although I found the chocolate a little too sweet for my tastes.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Toro. The standouts for me were the Escalivada Catalana and the Uni Bocadillo, both of which are worth coming back for alone. And lucky for Matt, Toro was surprisingly vegetarian friendly for a Spanish restaurant. I did think that some of the vegetable dishes were a little over priced, like the small bowl of brussels sprouts for $9. Then again, I would have paid even more for that Uni Bocadillo! I was also pleasantly surprised to see that they had very affordable wines by the glass, and even a few wines on tap for $6.

So, fellow Bostonians, any other good tapas places to try in the area?

1704 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02118
Toro on Urbanspoon

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu

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