Toro, the new implant from Boston, just shipped itself over to the Meatpacking District and is serving up some incredible Spanish tapas, small plates and paella. The team behind it is Chef Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette. It’s right at the edge of the Westside Highway and the inside is covered with ivy on the back walls and hanging meats from the ceiling. It’s very industrial, dark creating a fun mood and there are a bunch of bar tables at the front for eating and getting roudy- beware of the porron drinkers. This is a fun “signature” drinking activity involving a traditional Spanish glass wine pitcher. Basically you kick back your head and pour the spout of alcohol into your mouth. It’s very entertaining to watch and people are having fun.
The menu is enormous, a bit overwhelming but definitely exciting because everything sounds good and hey, you know you are going to get legit paella from these guys. The menu is divided into pinchos, tapas frios y jamones, paellas y platos, tapas calientes and tapas a la plancha. My favorite dish on the menu hands down is the Cauliflower y Kohlrabi. It’s made with pine nuts, golden raisins, anchovies and pimenton de la vera. This dish is crunchy, sweet, fresh and everything you could ever desire for a cauliflower. I could come here and just order this and some shishito peppers and call it a day. The Shishito peppers by the way are probably the best I’ve ever had. They are all large in size, plump and have added spice and necessary sea salt topping. Sure you can get these anywhere, but don’t you dare miss them here. The traditional Tortilla Espanola reminded me of my adventures on the Camino de Santiago when I lived in Barcelona, but let’s face it nothing beats the real thing in Spain. However, the Escalivada Catalana which is a smoked eggplant with onions, peppers and tomatoes is delicious.
The main takeaway from Oringer’s cooking here is that everything is virbrant and bursting with flavors that you don’t even know exist and dancing on the tip of your tongue, and the best part is nothing is too heavy or too saucy. It can still feel light with all of the different ingredients and concoctions. We ordered the Paella with Shrimp, Mussels , Clams, Chorizo and Chicken over the Lobster and Black Truffle option. You can get a half order or a full order and they note that it takes about 30 minutes to make. I loved the rice and they made sure to cook it just right so that it caramelized against the pan just enough to where you could scrape it perfectly off. My only complaint is that there were too many mussels and clams and only 3 pieces of shrimp and one piece of chicken. However, we did get the smaller size so who knows.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with Toro and it’s exactly the new restaurant that this city needs right now. A place to hang out, have some magical bites, some drank and even a place to interact and meet others. Everyone is having a good time here and the kitchen is really throwing down. My only problem is that our food sprinted out of the kitchen and we were up and out of there under an hour. If I wanted to eat quickly, I’d just pick-up food or swing into a fast casual spot, but Toro is so fun I didn’t want to be pushed out so fast.