It’s the first sign of fall; rainy, gusty, goosebumpy kind of cold. It is also a perfect night for dinner in one of my favorite spots; a cozy, energetic, neighborhood gem that is Toro; a Ken Oringer + Jamie Bisonnette love child. Oringer, a local Boston acclaimed chef, opened Toro in 2005 with instant success. He brought dramatic Spanish style tapas along with Chef Jamie Bissonette to a once risky corner of town that now boasts a cult like following in a thriving, posh, part of the South End. I am totally drinking the kool-aid.
Dan and I arrive to the undoubted 45 minute wait, perfect. We don’t mind, it’s expected. A little wait time, a catch up chat of our days events, and a boozy cocktail is just fine with me. It will also allow for the insatiable smells wafting from the kitchen to really get inside me, intrigue me, and allow for my hunger to build up even further.
I’m a huge fan of warm, aromatic, inviting, romantic spaces and Toro has the atmosphere down. A rugged, old school, brick building, dimly lit by votive candle light, a bustling, yet well controlled back kitchen area, with staggered high-top to table top variation, sleek bench and titanium chair seating, adds a modern note. It’s a great space for a night like tonight and I’m excited to revisit some of my favorite dishes and tack on a few new ones! My dining companion tonight, Dan, has the famed title of successfully eating through the entire Toro menu, with a worn out menu in checklist, scribbled out pen ink to prove it. I’m impressed and also in store for some new things!
The menu is extensively diverse. There’s really something for every kind of eater, but mostly foodies of a feather flock together here. Pork butter, veal sweetbreads, tuna belly, uni, and bone marrow are just a few of the oddities/nasty bits/sensational bites one can expect to try.
After a delicious Dark & Stormy, we are seated at probably the best spot for two in the house; a nice little corner table in the window, we sit and begin to plan our attack. Dan is easy and adventurous so this is going to be fun! First stop: Ventresca– Spanish tuna belly, tomato tapenade and celery leaves. It arrived on a thin, crisply toasted, slice of their house bread. It tastes much like chunky tuna, rather than the fatty “belly” characteristics like that of Pork or Lamb Belly which I am more accustomed to. A salty tang and oily finish solidify I am in for a good dinner tonight! Next up: Escalivada Catalana-smoked eggplant, onions, peppers, and tomatoes with sherry vinegar and olive oil. This was served similar to a ratatouille with a smoky, spicy bite; we sopped up every drop of it with the crusty bread. Then onto: Datile con Jamon– Medjool dates filled with marcona almonds and cabrales blue cheese wrapped in jamon serrano. Sweet, salty, mushy, crunchy, in the three bites it took to devour, my taste buds were dancing and I was glad these came one per person; It was a rich and fulfilling 3rd course. Onto my favorite, and a staple I was glad to see back on the menu since my last visit: Costilla de Bourguignon– Braised short rib with bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions. A simple, beautifully braised short rib that fell apart before my fork was even through it. Elegantly presented with a potato or parsnip puree (couldn’t exactly tell), brought me back to my fond first time experience at Toro in 2006. YUM.
Following a meaty, entree-type progression, we found ourselves quickly diving into the Panza de Cerdo– roasted pork belly, atop a bed of corn, bacon and tomato salsa. This was one of our favorites, very crisp bacon top- almost like pig ear, hiding a delicate, gelatinous bed of pure pork fat. It was like eating savory, stick-to-your-teeth candy and we loved it. The kind of flavor that keeps on giving, if you know what I mean. An interlude was necessary. Another glass of wine, some fun banter, and a quick breather to assess what was next. Ah yes, the house special, a must for any visitor, the Maiz Asado con Alioli y queso cotija– grilled corn with alioli, lime, espellete peppers and aged cheese. Since its’ debut a few years ago, it has never taken a vacation. Any given bite will excite each flavor distinctively; crunchy, salty, limey, cheesy paradise. I’m starting to get full, but Dan suggests we get the Asado de Huesos– Roasted bone marrow with a radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade. Done. Daring. I’ve never had bone marrow, let’s do it. Oh my goodness this stuff is good. After all the times I’ve watched Anthony Bourdain slurp it down, I can’t believe this is my first time, I want more!
Who needs desert after a meal like that! I went home feeling the sides of my teeth and being happy there were a few morsels of goodness still left to enjoy.
Ian, our server was great. He didn’t rush us and he checked back at just the right times. He even gave me a another plate of the Tuna Belly since I clumsily dropped half of it on the floor, nice touch. Thanks for the great service!
Thanks for reading! xo-G