Toro Toro, located in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown Miami, refers to itself as a Pan Latin Steakhouse. On Saturdays and Sundays, however, they offer a tapas brunch. For $35, you get all of the tapas you can handle in the space of 2 hours, plus brunch cocktails (mimosa and Bloody Mary). Tapas, for those that don’t know, are a variety of appetizers and snacks in Spanish cuisine. Tapas are typically small and meant to be ordered in quantities to share, rather than being an actual entree. So, you get a couple of small plates brought to your table to share among everyone.
Shortly after you are brought to your table, you are brought out a small plate of pandebono. If you’ve been following the blog, you should know exactly what this is. If you don’t, then this is a cheese bread that is made with corn flour and yucca starch. They were slightly crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Very, very good pandebono.
After that, we gout our first plates.
From left to right, we have the ceviche nikkei, caramelized bacon guacamole and chips, and the hamachi tiradito. The ceviche used tuna as its fish of choice, and was topped with diced avocado and sweet potato in a ponzu sauce. The tuna was incredibly fresh. I kind of missed the tartness of a citrus flavor in the ceviche, but overall it was very good. The hamachi tiradito was also very fresh, and was topped with pieces of granny smith apple. I enjoyed the tart crunch that the apples gave the tiradito, which played off the soy well. But the star of the first round was definitely the guacamole. Those crispy, salty chunks of pork belly bacon in every bite of creamy guacamole were absolutely incredible. Once we ran out of chips, we literally started eating it with a spoon.
As we were finishing up the first three plates, out came the smoke swordfish dip. It came with plantain chips for dipping. I wasn’t particularly impressed with this dip, but that might be because it reminded me of tuna salad. I had never had fish dip before this point, so I am not sure if that correlation is intentional. My friend enjoyed it, though.
Next, we got the achiote BBQ salmon and the cachapas. The cachapas were a corn cake that was stuffed with cheese. They served it with a little bit of tomato jam. Whatever cheese they used, it was excellent. It was like a fancy, tastier version of a Johnny cake. The salmon kind of blew me away. Unless I am at a sushi restaurant, I don’t really order fish. But, when you’re looking to try new things, why not? First off, the salmon was incredibly tender and moist. It was served on a bed of chayote squash and sauteed mushrooms with more of that awesome pork belly bacon in an achiote ponzu sauce. If I had known salmon could be that good, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it so often.
The next two ended up being some of my favorites. The short rib arepa benedict was a crispy corn cake topped with braised short rib. It was served with a poached egg on the side and a chili sauce. Not being a fan of eggs, I skipped the poached egg, The short rib with the arepa was phenomenal, though. The barbacoa grilled cheese had melted bel paese cheese and braised short rib in between two slices of brioche. The salsa that came on the side was good, but unnecessary. There was so much flavor in the cheese and the short rib that I didn’t want to take away from it. The contrast of the crunchy brioche with the creamy cheese was perfect.
After so much rich food, we decided to cleanse our palates with the heirloom tomatoes. This small salad contained hearts of palm, avocado, burrata, watermelon, herbs, and a chipotle vinaigrette. This was my second time getting watermelon in a salad. It worked equally well here. Despite the promise of chipotle in the vinaigrette, I did not find it spicy. All of the ingredients were fresh, and definitely helped the food go down to make room for more.
The wild mushroom coca flatbread was topped with goat cheese, arugula, and caramelized onions. Since I am not particularly fond of goat cheese, I was not terribly excited about tasting this one. Then, I took a bite, and the sky opened up and let the sun beam down on our table. Crispy, gooey, tangy, deliciousness. But, make sure you eat it while it’s still hot. It loses some of its magic after it cools down.
We got seconds of the guacamole, grilled cheese, salmon, and arepa before moving on to dessert.
That, my friends, is the Mexican chocolate waffle. It is topped with a scoop of crema fresca ice cream, sliced banana, and cajeta (dulce de leche). If you’ve ever had Mexican hot chocolate, that is exactly what biting into this waffle tasted like. The ice cream had a tang to it that reminded me of sour cream, but seemed to complement the richness of the waffle. I think that you could have taken the banana off of the plate and not affected the deliciousness of the waffle, but I didn’t mind that it was there. Banana is a flavor that actually works pretty well with spices, so it matched the spicy undertones in the waffle. I wish I had saved room for seconds.
At $35 per person, I think that this was a good value for the money. We left full and happy. Our server was incredibly attentive, and kept our glasses filled. I am actually shocked that more people weren’t there, but perhaps this is one of Miami’s best kept secrets.
For more information on Toro Toro, visit their web site at http://www.torotoromiami.com/