Toro, South End
I am honored to be writing a guest entry on Flower's blog.
Having just returned from three months in Paris, I have avoided going out to eat in Boston to avoid tarnishing my culinary memories. However, one cannot live by Ramen alone... so Flower and I headed out to catch up and get a bite.
Few will not have heard of the Ken Oringer - directed Toro on Washington Street in the South End. It consistently wins accolades, most recently Food and Wine's People's Best New Chef Award 2011 given to Jamie Bissonette.
As usual, it was packed at 7:30 on a Thursday evening. The promised wait of an hour for two actually turned out to be a bit less, and we eased the sting with a beverage at the bar. The drinks menu combines classic with inventive... although I still couldn't bring myself to order red wine and coke.
The high central tables give a great view of the dark and cozy space, with its brick walls, imposing bull's head on the back wall, and open kitchen. Impossible to test all the offerings on the Tapas menu, so we tested a few classics and a few more inventive dishes. Gambas al ajillo are still the best in the city, with delicate chillies and strands of saffron. Unlike virtually every other Tapas place, Toro does not drown them in oil or garlic. They were however, a bit oversalted. Foie gras with rhubarb, bacon, and thyme on a bit of toast was spectacular and gone all too quickly. Croquetas de Bacalao accompanied by breaded and fried meyer lemon rings were good but the frying oil was not fresh, which detracted from the dish. Toro has improved the mais asado with espellete peppers and cheese, making it a bit lighter and still just as tasty. The one disappointment of the evening was the coliflor a la plancha which was soggy from its bath in a bowl full of oil, pine nuts, and raisins.
The service was smiling and rapid, if a bit perfunctory. Dishes were removed as the last morsel of food was lifted from them, and the check followed just as swiftly, unbidden. To make this more authentic Barcelona experience, give the diners a few moments to savor and digest. I'd give the whole package a B+, but it's the brilliant food that will keep me coming back for more.