Boston brought us something, and it's not a Ben Affleck movie or a new sports team to hate. Instead we've been given an NYC location of the popular South End Spanish restaurant, Toro.
If you've ever been to the Toro in Boston, you probably know it to be a very busy, but pretty excellent little tapas joint with an open kitchen and about 65 seats. It's cozy and crowded, and that's all part of the appeal. Drinking sherry and eating pinchos in a small warm room in the winter is a pretty great way to spend dinner, especially when you can feel that everyone else in the room is having a good time too.
But the version of Toro that we got in New York is quite a bit different than its Boston counterpart. First of all, it's massive. There are supposedly 125 seats, which according to my state university education makes it just shy of double the size of the original location. But the 30 foot ceilings and huge bar area make the room feel much bigger than that. This Toro feel less like a restaurant and more like a dinner warehouse where food parties happen. Food parties with expensive ham. And when you consider the location they chose to open in, it sort of makes sense. The restaurant is on the 11th Avenue side of the same building that houses Colicchio & Sons and Del Posto, situated just north of the Meatpacking District. They're going squarely after the same people that frequent places like Catch and The Dutch, which is to say people that often care more about the scene than the food when they're deciding where to eat. So far, those people seem to like this place A LOT.
We like Toro too, for both the food and the atmosphere. Yes, we prefer the more intimate surroundings of the Beantown location, and yes, there are other Spanish restaurants in New York that we like more. But this New York Toro achieves the same feel good vibes of the original, and that's what makes it appealing. You can tell that everyone in this place is having fun, eating egg-on-a-spoon things and drinking out of porrons (see, ancient Spanish beer bong for wine). The menu is massive, and there are definitely some hits and misses, so knowing what to order (and having a reservation) is they key to having a good meal here. Whatever you do, don't let the server order for you. Last time we tried that at Toro we ended up with enough food to feed half of the Iberian peninsula, and a bill that added up to about half of its current GDP. All in the name of fun.
Every meal at Toro should start with one or three of these, and if you pay any attention to Instagram, it looks like almost all of them do. On a spoon is a quail egg, caviar, uni, and finely diced Iberico Jamon, and the end result is one decadent mouthful of goodness.
These blowfish tails are incredible, and no, they won't poison you. These tails have been dusted in Moroccan spices which pack a lot of flavor, and the meat is firm and delicious. Pick them up by the bone and eat them like exotic chicken wings.
For the most part, we've found that the simple stuff on this menu tends to be the best. These classic salt cod croquettes are a must order.
This roasted bone marrow dish on the other hand, can be skipped. It comes served with a beef cheek marmalade, which is reminiscent of the bone marrow with oxtail marmalade you'll find at Blue Ribbon. Unfortunately, this one isn't nearly that good. It's just way too oily.
This may only be on the menu because it's white truffle season, and that means you should probably get in here and order some now. It's basically a scrambled egg dish with truffles and bread crumbs, and it's delicious. I don't know how we get to eat this for breakfast every morning, but I suspect it involves winning the lottery and moving to Spain.
Smoked duck drumettes that sort of look like little turkey legs. We obviously loved these, for a lot of reasons. Order them.
A pork belly dish that's better than you might think it'd be. The pork is incredibly flavorful, and on our visit came served with apple and rutabaga.
Sort of like a grilled cheese, with black truffle and Jamon Iberico. It's tasty (how could it not be?) but not worth the $14 price tag.
A popular corn with cheese and lime juice dish, which you're used to seeing on many menus around the city these days. We felt like this one was a little heavy handed with the cheese, but you should get an order and decide for yourself.
We must have either looked really hungry or really stupid, because after about seven courses, our server decided we'd be needing the $90 paella that has lobster and black truffle in it to finish things off. Not the $45 half order, but the full pan that's the diameter of a hula hoop. I guess that's what we get for letting her drive. Anyway, this was certainly a good paella. But it wasn't so good we were going to eat six pounds of it.