2009.07.09 - Jeffrey Forman
M and I hadn’t gone out to dinner all weekend, and we figured, it was about time. I was having a hard time trying to figue out where we should go, and since neither of us had work in the morning, we could stray a bit farther from home. A friend’s Facebook status mentioned ‘sangria’ and I immediately thought tapas. Our normal standby tapas place is Dali in Somerville near Harvard Square. The past couple times there we became disillusioned with the dishes. It seemed like the same food on the menu the several times we went, not to mention it was always a bit oily. A couple months ago we tried a new place, Toro, in Boston’s South End with a couple good friends of ours. From that first visit, we were hooked, and vowed to go back again.
The restaurant met all the South End trappings: expensive valet parking, dim lighting, and a clientèle a little bit more hip than everyone else. But being that it was a Sunday night, and a bit on the early side (630pm), I was hoping I could find street parking (I did), and that we could slip into a table (30 minute wait) or at the bar (we happened to get the two seats closest to the open kitchen). Having read about the place before, and heard about the Chef, Jamie Bissonnette, I recognized him from the moment we sat down. We saw him the last time we came in, and he’s here again. For some superficial reason, I knew the food was going to be just as good since he was there. Just so happened during the meal he ended up service us one of the courses, and asked how whether we had been to Toro before and whether we liked the food. Judging from my comments below, it was a hit, and we told him so.
While waiting for our seats, I scanned the chaulk-board menu above the bar. I asked one of the bar tenders what a ‘Blinker’ was. Rye, grape fruit juice, and orange juice. While it was a good drink, albeit a little strong, I’d probably get something else next time. M got a sangria, which she enjoyed incredibly fast.
Tonight’s hit list:
- Atun Pincho: Tuna tartare with coconut milk and lime
- Lengua con Lentejas y Salsa Verde: Smoked beef tongue with lentils and salsa verde
- Ceviche with halibut
- Anna’s Empanadas: Chicken and potato empanadas, aji roja and alioli
- Sherry del Pollo con Tomate: Braised chicken with Pedro Ximenez, tomatoes and quinoa
- Escalavada catalana: Roasted eggplant, peppers, onions and tomatoes
- Churros con Chocolate (dessert)
Every plate was memorable. The lime foam on top of the tuna tartare made the dish pop even more, with just enough sweetness to bring the tuna to life. The beef tongue had a buttery texture, sliced thin. M loved the lentils, even eating the tongue regardless of her less-than-voracrious appetite for red meat. The ceviche with halibut was extremely fresh. (Get more bread for this one, and sop up the juices with the bread.) The empenadas were M’s favorite. Luckily the weather had cooled off in Boston tonight, or else this dish would have been a bit too heavy for a hot night. The accompanied mayonassaie aioli to put on top of the empeanads had a very faint hint of garlic, which didn’t overpower the sweet empnadas. The chicken was cooked to the point where only forks were needed to seperate meat from bone. The chicken I found to be pretty ‘chicken tasted’, that is to say that it didn’t have much flavor in and of itself. But the accompaning quinoia and tomatoes added some depth. While I am not the biggest fan of quinoa (I found it a bit bland), this version did have definitely character to it, and added some thickness to the chicken. This chicken dish was another that had juices on the bottom of the plate worth scooping into your bread. The eggplant brought out was soft and made a good comparison to the heavy meat and poultry dishes we had.
To end the meal we decided on getting the dessert suggested by our bartender/waitor who took great care of us. Churros con chocolate, like a fried/puffed pastry. The chocolate had a little kick to it, definitely unexpected. M and I had tasted chocolate that had chiles in it when we were out in Seattle in May, and this had the same profile. Slight, but not overpowering. Just enough to make you realize how unique and tasty it was.
The bill came and we were again pleasantly surprised at how relatively affordable it was. All in all, another home run for Toro.