We finally made it to Toro. Finally. The dark wood clad meets weathered brick walled South End taverna was reminiscent of ones we visited in Spain. It was actually this time last year we were traveling to Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian, and with the nostalgia achingly present, the experience at Toro was soul soothing.
We settled into our cozy window side table right away with a pitcher of Sangria ($25) - (significantly more than any Spaniard will charge you!) and perused the Restaurant Week menu. The benefit of visiting Toro during restaurant week is the ability to make a reservation, otherwise they don't take them and from what I have heard, the wait can get brutally long. Their tapas prices seem reasonable and the standard $33.12 per person is comparable to what you might spend regardless.
We started with a pintxo each, the Datiles con Jamon are a fairly standard choice on my part - Medjool dates filled with Cabrales blue cheese wrapped in Jamon Serrano (though missing the crunch of a marcona almond as advertised) and the Corazon is an adventurous choice on Adam's - smoked buffalo hearts with romesco. Both are fantastic.
We select five tapas for the main course beginning with Gambas al Ajillo. These griddled garlic shrimp are wonderfully plump and the casacabel chile sauce is thick, creamy and super flavorful. The platter of bread you are served at the beginning of the meal comes in handy here.
The gambas are a must order in my book, along with the Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija, labled La Especialidad de la Casa for good reason, and arguably one of the most well known dishes in Boston. The grilled corn is fiercely smothered in aioli, espelette pepper and aged cheese, so prepare to drench it with a lime wedge and get messy. Remarkably sweet and charred, the corn itself is fall off the cob tender, if there can be such a thing. It surpassed any expectations and puts other dishes of its kind to shame.
We didn't hesitate to order two tapas featuring pork, first, the Panza de Cerdo offers a substantial and perfectly crispy pork belly paired with briny littleneck clams, smoked potatoes, and celery oyster crackers that reminded me of tater tots. We realized this is Toro's interpretation of clam chowder, and it is exquisite.
On the other hand, Asado de Cerdo presents crispy, spicy pork with a lovely coliflor puree, roasted bone marrow and juicy sauteed green grapes. I could hardly pick a favorite between the two and was elated at our decision to double down on the cerdo.
There was no way we could pass up a bowl of crispy fried Patatas Bravas with thick aioli and spicy tomato sauce (on the bottom, be sure to stir them up). This classic dish takes me right back to Madrid, though, the bravas sauce was always drizzled on top so initially I thought it was missing.
For dessert, a few bites each of Manchego con Membrillo and Churros con Chocolate were shared. For lack of an extra churro (two would have been ideal) I was eating the rich, bitter hot chocolate by the spoonful. Overall our tapas were exceptional and filling, so I really can't complain.
Bottom line, you've got to visit Toro. The atmosphere exudes that of a traditional tapas bar, like many we visited in Spain it feels rustic and trendy all at once. It's comfortable and it's lively. And the food is just that good.