Sunday, March 22, 2015

Toro Toro Brunch Review

Plate #1 (of three)

I rarely get to enjoy two amazing brunches in the same month, yet alone the same weekend; so is it any wonder I'm still smiling as I write my review for Richard Sandoval's Toro Toro? Definitely not. Toro Toro offers the most exciting brunch in town; and I get the feeling that it's not a coincidence. If you're a fan of my negative reviews, you may as well stop reading now. I love, love, love Toro Toro (and that's no bull.)

I purposely arrived 10 minutes late for an 11 AM reservation; and to her credit, Toro Toro's friendly hostess didn't even flinch. No disapproving look or under-the-breath gasp... just a smile, a few kind words and an escort to a glorious table by the window, mere steps from the buffet area. The vibe here is unrivaled... Everyone (the restaurant was already more than half-full) appeared to be engaged and happy. Really happy. I couldn't wait to join them.

Plate #2

Reason #1 for all that happiness is likely due to Elena (hope I spelled it correctly) my server extraordinaire with hands-down, the brightest smile in all of DC. Her enthusiasm is infectious: Nobody describes a buffet better (she used the word fun three times, and she wasn't kidding.) She set me up with a Toro Mimosa (house champagne and fresh passion fruit purée) a drink so good, I ended up ordering two refills. Then off I went, plate in hand. Toro Toro's buffet is divided into two parts - the first, a broad combo of cold & hot dishes, desserts, salads and scrambled eggs. The selection is so diverse, it literally changes during service. The second was right up my alley... an assortment of hot meats prepared right in front of you. Unfortunately, I was so busy piling food on my plate, I didn't have time to thank the geniuses responsible for all this amazing goodness.

Genius? Yes, genius. How else do you describe the best chorizo is town (crispy, juicy, bursting with flavor) scrumptious picanha steak (available in both medium-rare and well-done) and an achiote-marinated chicken that literally sang to me, as it went down? Pork ribs "popped up" later; and I only had room to try less than half of their offerings. I'll be back (at least) two more times, mark my words.

How's this for a view? Franklin Square

You may have noticed bacon on my plate (actually all three.) Holy Moses, it's unbelievable. The first two pieces were sinfully good (crispy & well-done) and I could make an entire meal out of bacon & chorizo alone, if they let me. Of course, that would mean missing out on Toro Toro's surreal couscous, fresh pineapple, oysters, spiced shrimp or mini chocolate pancakes (with chocolate agave syrup.) Heck, even their asparagus spears were out of this world. Once again, I'm only touching on what's available: It's impossible to try everything (and still manage to walk out on your own two feet.) I had just under 90 minutes (had to leave, for another movie screening) to do as much damage as I could; but I dream of taking a full three hours to try even more.

Lest you think I was blindly in love, I must point out my first lot of potatoes were a bit cold, and their breadsticks too dense (and subsequently too filling.) Their eggs were tasty, but closer to overdone for my liking (I find most Spanish restaurants cook them longer.) Speaking of eggs, they also offered quiches... I want, I want. Add one more regret to the tally.

Plate #3

The more I write, the more I regret not staying longer. Buffet station #1 had a huge basket of housemade Plantain Chips at the end of it. You've never had plantain chips, until you've had these. They were crunchy, but not the least bit greasy or salty. I'd kill for a big bag of 'em. I wonder if Toro Toro offers take-away? Probably not. Great cheese too, and I only tried one of several varieties. My final bite of the day? An incredible Strawberry Cheesecake, cleverly tucked away in a mini mason jar. At the time, it was the lone dessert on the table, although I saw another one earlier. If Toro Toro was looking for yet another reason to come here, I might suggest a few more desserts. Of course, that would mean less room for everything else, so it's a catch-22.

Other items I regret missing... Ceviche shooters, at least four kinds of charcuterie and a Tomato Mozzarella Salad (with hearts of palm) which is what I normally start with. What can I say? I was excited. After all, this was my first time having brunch here. Remember your first kiss? Nobody's an expert, their first time out. I plan on learning a lot in the next year or so. Count on multiple reviews.

Strawberry Cheesecake

It goes without saying: The food at Toro Toro is terrific. Let's examine atmosphere and service for a paragraph or two. Toro Toro is very hip, dressed in black & brown with a few bolts of color, here & there for emphasis. Tables are black-brown and spacious, and my chair was as luxurious as any in town. Fur backing, and a lovely pillow for my lower back. They're tall too... even my 6'1 frame was hidden from view. Better still, the front entrance has two, substantially taller chairs for folks waiting to get in. Spacing is terrific, even around larger tables for eight or more. Great natural lighting (at least in the front) rounds out a truly epic look. Even the bathrooms are luxurious; and I didn't have a chance to inspect the downstairs bar/dance floor, which I've seen on two prior occasions. Needless to say, it's normally lovely too.

Tora Mimosa

As for service, good luck trying to find better. I won the lottery with Elena; but there's also General Manager Dusan Bogomirovic, who dances effortlessly across the dining room, dispensing charm and elegance at every stop. I couldn't help but notice Dusan, Elena and others constantly inspecting the room, just waiting for a chance to help someone. Water glasses are filled frequently (and always with a smile.) Best of all, there was a fresh napkin and flatware waiting for me, each time I returned from the buffet. How do you beat that?

Even the front entrance looks cool

By the time I left (reluctantly, of course) the restaurant was full. It wasn't noisy per se; but there was a natural noise of widespread happiness. Granted, Sunday Brunch doesn't usually inspire tension or unpleasantness; but this room appeared to be high on happy pills. That's a sign of good times; and as far as I'm concerned, the best of times. I can't wait to go back.