Tucked away behind the fairy-lights and olive trees at City Walks new fine-dining courtyard (which is also home to Lima and Galvin), Toro seats over one hundred people over two levels, indoor and out, boasting colourful, modern, industrial-style interiors.
The Barcelona-inspired tapas bar comes from award-winning chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, who already run branches of the restaurant in Boston, New York and Bangkok. The Spanish cuisine is all about bold flavors prepared with fresh arrangements of ‘Old World’ ingredients. Toro + Ko serves mainly tapas and small plates – looking at the menu, diners can expect pintxos (snacks such as olives and pan con tomate), small plates, cheeses, cold cuts and a mix of hot and cold tapas.
We visited on a Thursday evening; the place was relatively humming and we ended up ordering far too much. Before our cold cuts arrived our waiter served us a complimentary Gazpacho which was, naturally, deliciously tart.
We began with Cured Meats and Cheese, the Embutidos y Quesos which included chorizo, salchichon, manchego cheese and blue cheese to name a few. This was accompanied by simple pan de cristal, a homemade crunchy toast with olive oil, tomato spread, and garlic cloves. These all together make a classic Mediterranean-style comfort food.
The cold and hot tapas that followed the cured meats and cheese; the Tartar de atun: plump pieces of fresh tuna and avocado are sweetly prepared with fresh berries, contrasting all the individual flavors nicely. The Patatas bravas are served aesthetically beautiful and deconstructed with the spicy tomato brava sauce hidden inside the spherical potato and a creamy aioli garnishing it. The Calamares a mi manera is a variation of the classic calamari, with the squid being battered in various types of batter (on of which being squid ink) and is served with a delicious citrus aioli which adds a familiar acidity to the dish.
For the main event we ordered the Pulpo: Galician octopus plated with potatoes, charred onions and Pimenton da La Vera. The octopus was beautifully grilled and the flavours were well crafted, however, the dish was lacking acidity and would have been improved with added lemon juice (which the waiter was happy to provide).
From the grill, we tried the Marinated Chicken Skewers which was seared in a tasty and spicy marinate and served with a mint yogurt sauce which complimented the flavors of the chicken well.
To end, we couldn’t miss the Churros, which featured a perfectly doughy center and an unusual miso dulce de leche, and velvet sauce. These are easily shared between two or three people (or in this instance, one very sweet-toothed person).
Meanwhile, the Lemon Gratin with poached berries is something we’d highly recommend to those who prefer tart over sweet. The gratin has a moist and melting center and is deliciously prepared with a slightly sweet mixed berry compote.
So, what’s the verdict? The flavors are bold and full of punch, the service is beyond excellent (which is usually lacking in the Dubai dining scene), the atmosphere is approving, the cocktails are interesting and the drinks list is well curated. To sum it up, we will definitely be back at Toro + Ko, and we will be bringing some friends.