Taking Toro Toro by the horns
Dubai; When Mexican chef Richard Sandoval of Maya acclaim opens a new restaurant in a new hotel in new Dubai, Latin American Toro Toro at Grosvenor House’s new tower jumps to the top of FooDiva’s review list. Following two visits to check out its bar scene, and with the restaurant now operational for a month, it was time for a FooDiva review.
Perched over two storeys on the edge of the marina, an eye-catching floor-to-ceiling fireplace (yes only in Dubai) greets us along with two toro (Spanish for bull) sculptures and a plethora of hostesses and hosts mouthing into hands-free walkie talkies. The theatre continues with a central open kitchen flanked by corridors of grand tables with high backed animal-clad furnished chairs – one side smoking and the other non. Our walkie talkie host guides us to a banquette table a deux, but they, the tables that is, are a tad too long making conversation very arduous. Clearly not the case around us though; Toro Toro was abuzz with activity and completely booked up over two seatings on a Thursday night.
We didn’t get off to a good start with our two flutes of pink bubbles served flat, but once alerted, the waiter promptly popped open a new bottle. In typical Latino tradition the menu is designed for sharing family style with zillions of small ‘land’, ‘sea’ and ‘garden’ plates inspired by dishes from Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Colombia, and followed by a small selection of grills. FooDiva’s induction to all things Gaucho proved beneficial with tiraditos, causas, ceviche and empanadas making a grand menu statement. Out of our four starters, the Salt Cod Croquettes and the Picadillo Empanadas (a Latino version of a sambousek stuffed with beef, potato and raisins) were the stars of the show, quite literally bursting with flavour. The Cured Salmon Tiradito (a slimmer sashimi), was a little too tart for mine and my friend’s taste buds – whilst the Causa Limena (a potato cake topped with smoked swordfish tartare) was surprisingly cold, truly from fridge to table. But the accompanying cilantro dip was swiftly devoured.
For main we shared the signature Churrasco grill; Brazilian sirloin fillet and US rib eye steak, Australian lamb chop and sausage, and chicken in a Mexican achiote seed marinade – presented on a long skewer, and dished up on a sizzling platter. The beef was exceptionally tender and cooked perfectly blue as requested, but I would have preferred lamb fillet or loin to chops. Sausages are only worth having if pork as far as am concerned, so the lamb ones had zero appeal; shame there is no pork license. The churrasco comes served with Yuca fries, a starchy vegetable otherwise known as cassava, which did nothing to tantalise FooDiva’s taste buds, but am all for unusual ingredients. I much preferred our choice of side dishes; the roasted beet salad topped with crumbly goat cheese and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts, as well as the steamed broccolini drizzled with olive oil.
Food envy kicked in though, with grilled jumbo prawns glaring at us from the neighbouring table. In retrospect for average appetites, you only need order a couple of starters, unless you plan to skip the main which am pretty sure I would do next time round. Bursting at the seams, we could hardly look at the dessert menu let alone eat any more.
Service was a little erratic and slow, but the kind and gently-mannered Latino waiters were clearly trying. With a bottle of fruity Brazilian rose (and two glasses of bubbles), our bill for two totaled a whopping AED 1,434. For that price I can enjoy a wow dining experience at Gary Rhodes’ Mezzanine in the original tower. Dubai may have a new destination, with not just Toro Toro, but neighbouring Buddha Bar concept Siddharta Lounge (FooDiva review on its way) and Embassy nightclub coming soon, but Grosvenor House will need to take the bull by the horns and sharpen the food and service before I return to eat my way through the menu. In the meantime, I’ll happily stagger up to the hip and happening bar on the upper floor. Here’s to a three out of five FooDiva knife rating.
What’s your experience of Toro Toro? Do you think it offers value for money? Any favourite Latino dishes?