It was around 10:00 p.m. on a mild October night when we walked west through Chelsea toward its perimeter highway on the Hudson. The sun had long set into Manhattan’s stalagmite forest, and we were full of good food and great wine after a dinner with friends on Lemon: NYC eve. Word on the wind was a newly-opened restaurant had the perfect remedy for restlessness in the tradition of Spain, Boston-bred and throwing its hat into the ring due south. Two chefs were ready to dance that delicate, precise number necessary to entrance the king of bulls, and we were there to greet them. Backward it may seem, but the call made perfect sense. It was time for tapas.
To their credit, Mr. Oringer and Mr. Bissonnette do not cook as if they are in a huge restaurant. Toro’s food isn’t stagy or gimmicky; it’s honest and thoughtful, and it can feel a bit lost in this space. There are times when eating tapas here is like watching card tricks at Yankee Stadium.
As The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells concluded his two star review of Toro in New York City on December 31, this coliseum to a supercharged Catalan cuisine is vast and formidable, unlike its sibling to the north. An arena perhaps where only this pair could command the presence, focus and certain no sé lo que needed to orchestrate the crowd in their favor, not get lost in it. That’s exactly what we encountered on our first visit. Ken was behind Toro’s food bar in the back, and we found Jamie on the hotline in its underbelly down the hall, a passageway of winding guts the likes of a grand hotel’s commissary kitchen. The chefs were having fun, the dining room was electric and wanted more of where it all was coming from. So did we.
On Tuesday, January 21, one week from today, we offer our bullpen in Miami’s Design District for a Toro spectacle, concentrated, up close and personal. So here is what’s for dinner, food finalized this past weekend with the chefs and drink, yesterday, with Eric Larkee and the kind folks at Vibrant Rioja. The wines they chose are perfect examples of both old school and modern winemaking that characterize the region today.
Safe travels to the Ken and Jamie, salute to us, and see you next week! Tickets include it all (Jamie got new tees banged out just for us!) and can be purchased here.
Harry’s Welcomes Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette
Tuesday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m.
Florida Kumquat Gimlet
Beef Heart Bruschetta chives, lemon, romesco, sourdough
Chicken Liver Stuffed Sage Leaves tempura
Maize Asado con Cotija Pizza roasted corn, Spanish aioli, espelette
Oysters Escabeche cranberry verjus and horseradish
Bocadillo di Uni uni, miso butter, pickled mustard seeds
Tomato Salad mint green goddess, crab, purple basil
Wood Oven Octopus charred onion vinaigrette
Roasted Romanesco Catalan raisins and pine nuts
Wood Oven New York Strip onion marmalade
Florida Shrimp Paella sun chokes and black garlic
Churros con Chocolate smoked maple and bee pollen sugar
Lopez de Haro Rosado 2012
Marques de Caceres Blanco 2012
Vina Herminia Crianza 2010
Contino Reserva 2007