November 28, 2007

Toro Bravo (120 NE Russell St.)

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Finally. I had it carefully planned. We arrive right at 5 o'clock. We were certain to avoid the long wait. We were only missing one person. What do you mean you can't seat us? You can't seat us till we are all here? Okay. What's that? Oh good. You'll give us 10 minutes before you sell our friend's seat. Thanks so much! We'll enjoy our dinner. I frantically text my friend to find out if she is within 10 minutes away. She walks in about two minutes later. Phew. The other people at our table are waiting for two people. I am getting stressed out for them. The waitress comes by. So you're waiting for two people? Are they almost here? She asks tensely.

My stomach feels like the spelling bee I was in in the fourth grade. The timer was going and I couldn't spell lightening. Or is it lightning? Our tablemates' friends arrive, just past their ten minute limit. They sit quickly, aware that they are now sitting on a hot commodity in Portland.

With the seats sold so easily, I am hoping the food is going to be worth it. The line outside the door builds steadily. And as we watch people shiver outside for two hours while we eat our delectable meal, I am more than delighted with our choice to arrive at the opening hour.

Let's see if I can remember everything we had: the cheese plate, fried anchovies, oxtail croquettes, meatballs, salt cod fritters, venison terrine, pulled pork on grilled bread, bread with olive oil and butter, bacon wrapped dates, roasted eggplant with sweet pepper lamb ragu and mahon cheese, chanterelles on grilled bread, seared scallops with romesco. (Did I miss anything you guys?) Toro Bravo is a tapas restaurant, so all of these were small plates. Perfect for sharing.

The waitress was very friendly, explaining each cheese on the cheese plate (I wish I could remember what they were because they were excellent, good, great, whatever word you want to use - the cheeses were perfection) and each dish as it came out. After about 20 minutes, another friend showed up unexpectedly and surprisingly, the staff added another seat to our table without any grumbling. And the waitress quickly brought a menu and drink for him.

You might remember my love affair with anchovies in San Francisco. I was very anxious to revisit them here in my own hometown. And fried. You can't beat that! And they were fried with lemon and fennel. Yeah. I don't really know what to say. I have never tasted fried lemon before, but I liked it. And I liked it with the anchovies. A lot.

To be honest, there wasn't anything I didn't like. I didn't love the bacon wrapped dates because the ones at South Park are really hard to beat. But really, everything we ordered was new and different to me and all tasted {insert your own superlative here because I don't know of any words that match the quality of the food I ate in their intensity}. The grilled bread was crispy and chewy (just as I like it), and the salt cod fritters were salty and so not fishy and perfectly paired with aioli.

Over two hours we chatted and ate leisurely as they brought us a new plate of food about every 5 or 6 minutes. It was not dinner. It was an experience. And one I quite liked.

Toro Bravo was named Restaurant of the Year in Willamette Week and their chef was named Chef of the Year in Portland Monthly. They are good. And they know it. And they are not afraid to sell your friend's seat if they are not there. So just be sure your friend is with you when you go, lest they be left outside in the cold, forced to fend for themselves.

Oh and I forgot to tell you about the chocolate molten cake.... but I think you might be able to figure out how that ended up.

Toro Bravo on Urbanspoon


Zapora said...

alright I am starving now....great description of the foods you ate. As soon as I get to Portland I will have to check it out.

NĂºria said...

Hi Lizzy!
It seems you enjoy Tapas... This Toro Bravo Restaurant sounds great! It seems that Spanish cuisine is getting everywhere! I know what you mean when you say it was an experience instead of a dinner... That makes the difference in a good restaurant!
If you come over to my blog I'll have some tapas set for you!!!

Mansi Desai said...

absolutely nothing can compare to a full-fledged meal that you completely enjoy, right??!! it's a rarity, and I bet u witnessed just that!!