Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Some Call Odd, I Call Delicious- Toro in Boston

Last weekend, Christa and I were up in Boston for a weekend away from everything here.  We decided that, instead of paying insane rates for a Celtics game or some expensive tour of Fenway, we would just eat our way around town.  We started on the North End, dining on some delectable oysters from New Hampshire, Chowda from a Irish little pub called the Green Dragon, and so on.  Then, on Saturday, we headed to Chinatown, the third biggest Chinatown in the US, for some peking duck, bbq pork, thin noodle duck soup, 

and these delightful scallion cakes served with ponzu dipping sauce that had the flavor of a savory italian pizza fritte, sans confectioner sugar.

For dinner that night, we had a treat in store.  Being consummate fans of spanish tapas and the beautiful ingredients it promotes, we had to get to Toro, a 55-seat Barcelona-inspired tapas restaurant in Boston's South End.  It is owned by chef Ken Oringer, who was named Best chef-Northeast" by the James Beard Foundation in 2001.  The executive chef, Jamie Bissonnette, brings the spanish theme true credibility with a delicious menu.  So, here is the meal as we experienced it.  Some of the dishes may make you think, " I would NEVER order that," but think again, this was amazing.
So, the dished we ordered ranged in price from $5-$14.  Each offering was enough for two bites for both of us, and some were larger.  All were very well prepared.

These two dished were our first offerings.  On the left is Corazon a la Plancha, grass-fed beef heart with romesco.  The romesco was a nice combination of almond or hazelnut, red pepper, garlic and onion.  The heart was shaved quite thinly and piled lightly.  It was not minerally, nor was it tough, it was a nice beef flavor.  On the right is Ventresca, or tuna belly, tomato tapanade and celery leaves.  Unfortunately, this was the least memorable of the dishes.  It tasted of albacore tuna, not ahi, and was balanced with the tomato.

The dish on the left is Mollejas, crispy sweetbreads with blood orange and cinnamon. The sweetbreads were fantastic.  The blood orange really off-set the fattiness of the sweetbread, and the cinnamon added a nice, unexpected tone.  The dish on the right is oyster with a citrus foam.  Good, but not fantastic.  On the bottom is Jamon de Pato- cured duck ham.  It is just a duck breast, cured and served as charcuterie.  It ROCKS.  You can get it in Philly at DiBruno Brothers- see my past post.

Ok, now these two dishes were by far two of my favorite of the night.  On the left is Uni Bocadillo, a pressed Uni sandwich with miso butter and pickled mustard seed.  For those of you who are uninitiated, Uni is the gonad of the sea urchin, male or female.  It is the Foie Gras of the sea.  Simply it is a savory, creamy, slightly salty delight.  The miso butter added to the creaminess, with the crispy texture of the panini-like sandwich, it was heavenly.  On the right is Foie Gras con Chutney de Pera- Foie Gras with pear and bacon chutney.  Again, Foie Gras is the Uni on land.  It is creamy, fatty, rich, delicious, and was cooked to perfection.  Crispy outside, creamy center, and seasoned nicely.  The chutney added a sweet pear flavor, and bacon added to anything makes it better.  There was great balance in both of these dishes; just amazing.  

These two dishes came to us on the recommendation of the server.  On the left are Croquetas de Bacalao- salt cod fritters with preserved fried lemon rings.  The lemon rings were very nice, and complimented the salty fish.  On the right, there is grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese.  I thought this dish was a little bit of a throw away for the restaurant.  It was one of the less expensive dishes, but it was not great.  It was messy and the corn was not in-season sweet corn.  

On top here was a daring dish for my wife.  It is Lengua con Lentejas y Salsa Verde- smoked beef tongue with lentis and salsa verde.  The tongue was as tender as any beef dish you could think of.  The smoke, though, brought on a pastrami taste and texture.  The lentils were fantastic.  Served al dente, they paired beautifully with the salsa verde.  On the left is Vientre de Cerdo- crispy pork belly with pumpkin, escargots, apple and maple crumble.  It was a near-perfect dish.  The pork belly could have been a little crispier, but the flavors were spot on.  On the right are Navajas a la Plancha- razor clams with garlic, lemon and piquillo peppers.  Razor clams are a little used and rare ingredient.  They have a very strong clam flavor, but are not overpowering in any way.  These are actually Atlantic jackknife clams and can be found from Canada to South Carolina. 

The last dish we enjoyed was Asado de Huesos- Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade.  Restaurant bone marrow is often the inner-most part of the femur bone.  It is rich, fatty, and best over bread.  Some of the best chefs in the world, famously including Anthony Bourdain, consider it to be good enough to be their death-row meal.  The oxtail marmalade had the consistency of a beef short rib, and the intense flavor of a long braise.  the radish salad added a brightness to the dish, and the citrus cut through some of the fattiness of the dish, but there was no cutting through all of it.

The meal was paired with a nice pinot noir that complimented most of the dishes, but there was no wine that would have reached all of these wonderful dishes.  It was a great meal, worthy of a gander if you are up in Boston.  If you want a similar experience in Philly, chef Garces' Amada is a similar style restaurant with similar flavors.  Hope you enjoyed, because I know I did.  

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