So I kind of got dragged to the South End, which might as well be the other end of the earth for me, last week by a couple of friends, one of whom was on furlough (his wife and one-year-old son were on a plane back from California at the time). The destination was Toro, a be-seen tapas bar created by Ken Oringer, the chef behind Clio and Uni in Back Bay – in other words, a really famous chef around these parts.
Anyway, the food at Toro was impressive. The best dish, one that Ming Tsai raved about in a review I found after we ate at the restaurant, was a grilled maize dish. The cobs are seared to the point where the outside of the kernels is starting to blacken, after which it’s rolled in a garlic-mayo (tasted like butter was in there too) and topped with a crumbling of cotija cheese, which I didn’t even know I liked. Other hits included the shrimp in a mildly spicy butter sauce, a braised short rib served in a tiny cast-iron skillet, bacalao croquettes (a little soft inside, but not fishy, with a perfectly fried exterior) with a ring of deep-fried lemon rind, and boquerones (marinated fresh anchovies).
There were a couple of misses, of course. The skirt steak was bland and a bit undercooked (we asked for medium, it was still mooing when it reached the table). The pimientos de padron were very bitter, which was a big disappointment because it was my first time trying them after reading about them in Calvin Trillin’s Feeding a Yen. The pan con tomate was fine, but it was just bruschetta with a Spanish name, nothing I couldn’t have in any decent Italian restaurant (not that we have that around here).
I’m told the wine list at Toro is solid, for what that’s worth, but since I drove downtown I didn’t partake.
I left not hungry, but not exactly full, for $30 or so, which doesn’t strike me as a great bargain, but is typical of my experiences at tapas places. I’m not a huge eater, but the tiny little plates never seem to add up to a full meal. So if you like tapas or want to go to a restaurant with a scene, Toro’s worth the trip, since the food itself is good. I just like a little more bang for my buck.