You would think that the wait for a table would be reasonable on a Monday night, right? Not at the famous tapas restaurant Toro Bravo. The wait for a group of four was over an hour when we arrived at 6:30, and boy was it worth it! My cousin Beth, our friends Vashti and Amy, and I weathered out the wait upstairs at Secret Society. Toro Bravo called us when our table was ready, but that wasn’t until after the Red Cross called and roped me into my next blood donations. I don’t think a group of people have ever been as disappointed by a red cross cold call as we were.
Above is the menu for Toro Bravo. You see that star next to the Griddled Bacon Wrapped Date, that was my way of marking a dish we ate. My group and I chose to embrace the adventure of the evening and order the Chefs Choice Tasting Menu. We were informed the Chefs Tasting Menu consisted of six to eight separate dishes with enough for everyone. On a previous trip to Toro Bravo the server had been very clear on the strict nature of the Chefs Menu, so I was surprised when our wonderful server said she could just do the choosing and keep our tasting within budget and low on the gluten side for our gluten free party members. After going over the menu that I took for research purposes there are twelve dishes with stars by them. Our server was a rock star.
I guess I’ll just jump right in, because once the food started arriving it just didn’t stop. That’s what I love about sharing small plates, it’s a magical marathon of food. The first dishes to arrive included four Griddled Bacon Wrapped Dates with warm honey, Braised Leeks with Salbitxada, Duck Liver Mousse Terrine with morels and house made sidra mustard, and the Groundwork’s Greens with pickled beets, hazelnuts and fromage blanc. The Braised Leeks topped my list as my favorite dish of the evening. They were mild, savory, and creamy with the softest crunch. The leeks are pictured below.
The next round consisted of Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with bacon sherry cream, Potatoes Bravas, Seared Cauliflower with olives and salsa verde, and Sauteed Spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins. The potatoes bravas aren’t usually included in chefs tastings, but that rock star of a waitress took my request since I had been craving them since we had decided to go to Toro Bravo. The creamy sauce that tops these gems was described as an aioli, but it is the lightest aioli I’ve ever tasted and I think it is better described as a mix between mayonnaise, sour cream, and savory yogurt. I believe the moment I was officially full was when I finished the bowl of potatoes. Did I stop eating? Do you know me? Of course I didn’t, because there were four more dishes that had yet to arrive.
We thought the final round of food was the Drunken Pork with fresh shell bean stew, Roasted Eggplant and Lamb Ragu with sweet peppers and mahon, and Meatballs with tomato-almond sauce and english peas. I think this is around the time that Beth stopped eating. Literally wouldn’t take another bite. We all sighed with pleasure at the feat we had accomplished by conquering the chefs tasting. Then another plate of food showed up.
When the server asked if the Harissa Stewed Butternut Squahs with sheep’s cheese was ours, we all shook our heads in shock. They had to go ask the kitchen if in fact it was ours, and yes, it was. As she went to ask I declared that the harissa squash was so good (I tried it last time I was at Toro) it was the only thing I could imagine being happy about being put on the table. And we were all so full I was happy to take home the remainders of it.
We all decided that the brussels sprouts were one of the winners of the evening. If you think all brussels sprouts with bacon are the same, you are wrong. The bacon sherry cream made such a difference. The least popular dishes were the drunken pork which was just too meaty and the meatballs which were just to plain. Beth thought that the Mexican spicing of the meatballs made them different, but when surrounded by the stellar dishes that came before it they seemed underwhelming. The roasted eggplant was Amy’s hands down favorite, but I think I was just to enamored by the potatoes and leeks to really give it the time of day.
You know what the greatest part about the marathon of eating was? With a carafe of sangria split between me and Amy and all of the food, we each paid just under $40 with tip. And do you see that pitcher of iced tea Beth got for $2? (Yes, she finished it.) Toro Bravo isn’t the cheapest place in Portland, but if you do it right it is one hell of a deal for a full out foodie adventure!
Want to go to Toro Bravo?