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TORO early Friday - long

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TORO early Friday - long

seekaltroutes | Jan 7, 2006 02:01 PM

Bottom line, a pleasant and perfectly enjoyable tapas bar. It neither blew me away nor let me down--probably the best outcome for a place so hyped it seemed destined to disappoint or at least arouse withering chowhound scorn. Bill wasn't steep but added up quickly: conservative $50pp+ for a filling meal/adequate drinking/tip--high given what that gets you eslewhere, but not at all exorbitant.

In at 5:50pm, seated upon kitchen opening at 6pm, packed with a 30min. (and growing) wait by 6:45pm. Friendly (mostly Spanish?) staff kept things moving without being snotty. Atmosphere was very lively and casual, zilch attitude or pretention. Until they turned down the lights the decor was a huge mood/appetite killer, though: generic Cosi sandwich shop feel plus an "open kitchen" = "we took out a wall so here is a scenic view of the storage shelving." (Related: bathrooms have mirror frames but no mirrors? where's that storied wine markup money going exactly?! Four letters Ken Oringer, I-K-E-A)

Tapas are overall fairly simple but with nice (non-overbearing) "haute" flourishes, a bit smallish but still bursting with flavor. Would return to try the 2nd menu page of more unusual/trad tapas (tongue, tripe, legendary veal cheeks, etc.) and the gigantic seafood paella served at the table next to us. Liked the duck (prefer Dali's raspberry version though); liked the shrimp but the cloche of saffron threads on top was totally wasted flavor-wise; loved the fried lemon rings on the bacalhao; loved the chorizo and garbanzo stew; don't get the fuss over the blah, watery pan con tomate. Ascended briefly to culinary nirvana courtesy of the pimientos, whole (semi-)hot peppers sauteed with salt.

4 people + 11 tapas + 1 $30 bottle of cava (we are poor grad students!) = $96 (pre-tip), but a bit hungry. Another bottle + 4-5 more tapas (or the paella) would have been a great/tipsy meal and as I said maxed out around $50pp.

Heady on the tapas lifestyle, we trekked "across town" to Masa for $1 tapas. Bartender was nice but cocktails were gross (my fault for ordering a mojito at a Southwestern joint I guess). 10-tapas combo platter ($10) was great if a bit heavy, but these are NOT tapas--we're talking "pinchos," about 2 bites per item. We are total gluttons so rather than admitting we were full then it was off to Delux for a nightcap of chocolate bread pudding. (What new year's resolution?) It was 10:15ish and we were seated immediately--unheard of in the South End.

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