Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Toro Tapas & Tequila, finding a new niche in Patchogue's restaurant market

On the same day a couple of weeks ago, two friends of mine separately texted me that they wanted to try out this new restaurant that was opening in Patchogue.  Apparently news of the impending opening of Toro Tapas & Tequila had hit the news-wire that morning, and from the sound of it, this one seemed like something new and different, and yeah, even a little exciting.

The town of Patchogue has become Long Island's latest and greatest hot spot over the past ten to fifteen years or so and already there are probably as many quality eateries here as anyplace else on the island.  When you live here, though, they all get kind of boring after awhile, so I was excited earlier this evening when my pal Kristen suggested we give Toro a try.

First Impressions

Immediately upon entering Toro Tapas & Tequila, two things were very clear. First of all, the place was beautifully and tastefully decorated, elegant enough to give it an upscale feel.  The restaurant consists of two large rooms, a bar area and a dining room, and both were sparsely populated at 7:00 p.m., prime dining time.  This was unfortunate because this place deserves to be busier than it is, though undoubtedly its location has everything to do with it.

The official address of Toro is Main Street, but the restaurant is actually located on Ryder Avenue, with its side facing Main and just east of the main drag where most of Patchogue's restaurants are located. The area sits within a zone that separates the Main Street and the less populated eastern end of Main Street.  In order to go to Toro Tapas & Tequila, you need to drive there.  It is within walking distance from the municipal parking lots, but it's a long walk, and besides, the restaurant has its own parking.

The Service

The people working at Toro were all very friendly and very attentive...almost too attentive, and maybe that's because there were so few customers in the restaurant to keep them busier while we were there.  I don't mean this in a negative way, because having the waitress or ma├Čtre d coming over to your table to see if everything is alright or to ask if you need anything is normally a good thing. They just came by a little too often.  

In all, however, the folks at Toro were there to make sure that diners were enjoying their food and drink.  Leaving great first impressions is important, of course, and that's what every single person was attempting to do.  During our meal, both the owner, Ariel Bonilla, and the head chef, Alex Bujoreanu, came to the table to introduce themselves and to make sure we were enjoying our experience.  

Ariel, a Salvadoran immigrant who no doubt found his love for food service from working in his family's successful Patchogue bodega for many years, is a genuinely nice guy who's got a real drive to succeed with Toro, and I wish him well.  He and I chatted endlessly about his Salvadoran background, his ideas for the place, and he listened carefully to whatever sort of input Kristen and I had for the food and the place in general.

The Food

As it says right there in the name of the restaurant, the food here is primarily tapas, a variety of appetizer-type foods that evolved into a whole type of cuisine in Spain and have found their way here in the U.S.  Tapas are served in small portions and are meant to be shared.  A typical meal at a tapas restaurant would include several tapas shared by everyone at the table.  

We started our evening off with a pitcher of white sangria, which was refreshing, yet not really strong.  As we waited for our pitcher, our waitress brought over a sample of their gazpacho, served in a tall shot glass.  I'd never tried this cold, tomato-based soup before, and I've never had soup in a shot glass before, but the gazpacho was pretty darned tasty.  For our meal, Kristen and I opted for a starter of a mixed board of meats, cheeses, crostini and olives and then we moved on to some tapas.  As you can see from a portion of the menu above, the tapas served here are varied and even a little exotic...not things you would see on many other menus.    

a shot of gazpacho

meats, cheeses, crostini and olives

Kristen and I started with two tapas at first, and then two more, recommended by both our waitress and Ariel.  The second two were ordered because the portions on the first were, well, small, and not enough to fill up our hungry tummies.  Despite the small portions, the food was pretty amazing.  I especially enjoyed the chorizo and patatas bravas, which are a serving of roasted potatoes cooked with garlic, aioli, salsa brava and paprika.  They are absolutely out of this world!

spinach croquettes and chorizo

patatas bravas...our favorite!

Overall, Toro Tapas & Tequila is a nice place with a comfortable and elegant atmosphere and delicious, gourmet food.  Being a typical tapas eatery, the prices are a little high for the amount of food you get, but if you enjoy trying out an assortment of tempting, unique foods, then this place is definitely worth a try.  Here's to Toro finding its own successful niche of the Patchogue restaurant folly!

Overall Rating (on a scale of 1-5)

Atmosphere  ****1/2

Service          **** 1/2

Food             *****

Price             $$$$

Toro Tapas & Tequila on the web...