We’ve eaten at the famous Toro Boston and were thrilled to find out Ken Oringer & Jamie Bissonnette were opening a New York outpost of their Barcelona-style tapas bar. And bonus, this one takes reservations! In Boston, we waited a couple of hours to get in but enjoyed ourselves immensely once we did. It was packed – a lively and hopping scene. They are famous for being locavores and Adam Platt gives Toro NYC cred for great East Coast seafood.
Every holiday season we visit an absurd amount of restaurants and write them all up. For those of you who follow, you know the reviews stopped in July. The cause – a new and ever-more demanding job. But in an effort to get back to a life balance, 2014 will bring at least one review a week. The tendency is to go to so many places the backlog is overwhelming. So from now on it will be the most memorable, newest, hottest or whatever stood out each week and WRITE IT UP! Our New Year’s Eve visit to Toro was the motivator for getting back to writing.
About 3 weeks in advance we were perusing Open Table for holiday reservations. We have two birthdays + the holidays. By some miracle there were several time slots open on New Year’s Eve at Toro NYC?! So we took 7pm. We got a call to confirm on 12/27 and spent 5 days trying to call back. A machine picks up no matter if they are open or closed. So we were unable to confirm until the 31st. We were never told there was a special prix fixe menu. That afternoon we went online to take a glance at the menu and discoverd we were attending the 2nd seating at 7pm for $100 (price goes up exponentially depending on time). No menu posted. So I called to cancel. There’s nothing worse than an overpriced holiday prix fixe. But the ‘cancellation policy’ is 48 hours notice and unlucky for me, we had to provide a credit card # with the reservation. So in lieu of being charged $50 for nothing, we opted to go.
The location is behind Colicchio and Sons in Meatpacking on the corner of Eleventh Ave & 15th Street (the Tenth Ave address is deceiving). We never even knew there was space back there! And it is a stunning high-ceilinged space at that. It has that industrial/metal + reclaimed wood look. Exposed brick walls, communal tables. You know the drill. One note as we passed Colicchio & Sons we could not miss the hundreds of helium balloons floating at the ceiling, colorful ribbons hanging down playfully. Now that was a special touch. I regret not getting a photo. Stunning. Anyway…back to Toro.
We arrived and there was quite a bit of futzing about regarding coat check and clearly ‘VIP’ Open Table status means seat them by the bar service station. We were given menus and had no clue what the heck was going on. We inquired, as there were items with prices near the bottom of the menu. They must have been extras as we never got that story. And there was a Champagne flight menu add on for $48. As it turned out they were serving 13 tapas. OK, we thought, that’s worth $100 each!
Until the mediocre stuff started rolling in. We got about 3 dishes at a time of cold pre-prepared food and watched the runners slinging the same course around the entire restaurant. Not one item stands out as something we might be having at the amazing Toro. We’ve already experienced the novelty of the corn at several places so even that wasn’t impressive. Especially when cold. But this is a testament to New Year’s Eve, not necessarily Toro. It is a shame they are a part of the holiday ripoff game in NYC. I read a great post by The Redhead on Facebook. They said :
‘It is such a relief that we aren’t forcing ourselves to have the most spectacular New Years ever.
No cover charge.
No prix fixe.
No VIP area.
Just us. Our regular menu. And our favorite people. And some bubbly.
Actually, it sounds pretty spectacular after all. Have a happy and safe New Years!’
Can we make our reservation now for next year?!
Our waiter Thomas was very good and perfectly pleasant. This is not a reflection of the service. The total bill with tax and tip was $316 for two and only one was drinking liquor. The total would have been $350+ had both of us been drinking. P.S. the cocktail menu and wine selection is Spain-centric. Quite lovely, really. The tapas were served family style for a table of two (i.e. we each got 1/2 a deviled egg, we each got 1/2 of an empanada, etc). Granted, we did get full by the 13th course, which was 4 slices of steak. We could barely finish after the 4 generous courses of veggies that arrived just prior.
There is no photography. It was simply too dark for flattering food pictures. It is bad enough to do a negative write-up (this is one of our few EVER), so we won’t add insult with bad pictures. Everything was nicely presented. I’ve included only official pics from their website.
Spicy Shishito Peppers with Sea Salt – OK, but way over-salted
Deviled Farm Eggs with Conserved Tuna Belly and Guindilla Peppers – What? Had no clue until right now there was any tuna belly involved!
Pressed Sandwich of Tetilla Cheese, Black Truffle and Jamon Iberico – Sad little grilled cheese sandwich. Waste of Iberico to get grilled into this sandwich. Four little triangles.
Mixed Greens, Grilled Corn, Croutons, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Tahini Dressing & Mahon Cheese – this was by far the worst dish. Flavorless with lots of Mahon. Definitely not mixed greens, more like just romaine which was as flavorless as iceberg.
Yellowfin Tuna with White Soy, Spicy Cucumbers, Citrus & Avocado – alas, some REDEMPTION!
Housemade Chicken & Potato Empanada with Tomatillo – we had dissention on this one, one like and one ‘it’s soggy’. It still stands as one of the better tapas
Now for the veggies…
Fried Potatoes with Aioli and Spicy Tomato Sauce – the tomato sauce was actually quite sweet. We didn’t really touch this generous serving as why would we want to fill up on a pile of potatoes?
Grilled Corn with Aioli, Lime, Espelette and Aged Cheese – Who does not love this very popular Spanish/Mexican dish? It is for sure a bit messy, but a favorite.
Heirloom Carrots, Buttermilk, Dill & Harissa – the harissa made this like ‘dirty carrots’ They were OK, but certainly not something you could eat a large serving of…
Brussels Sprouts with Olive Oil and Maldon Salt – Fabulous, but who doesn’t love grilled Brussels sprouts? And what restaurant doesn’t serve them these days?
And the Entrees…
Griddled Garlic Shrimp with Cascabel Chilies – Delicious and there were actually six shrimp. Another redeeming dish despite being ice cold.
Marinated NY Strip Steak with Cabrales Butter & Red Onion Marmelade – By this time we were stuffed. It was a solidly good 1/2 a NY Strip cut into a few slices to share. Also ice cold.
The Extras…apparently available in two sizes for a small extra fee on top of the prix fixe
Lobster Paella $90/$45
Valenciana Paella $76/$36
Vegetable Paella $60/$30
Maple Crumble Churros & Orange Chocolate – the orange chocolate was divine
We left feeling ripped off and disappointed. Toro has such a great reputation and it will likely be a while before we go back to try the FULL menu and select what we WANT to eat for dinner (like Erizos con Caviar, Higado Frito, Datiles con Jamon, Foie Gras y Piquillo to name the first four I eyed up in about 3 seconds). Maybe this summer will be the second chance. Until then sorry, Toro, but we were disappointed. To be expected on New Year’s Eve in New York.
Happy New Year!
85 Tenth Avenue – Meatpacking District (Entrance on Eleventh Ave & 15th St.)