“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.” – Paulo Coelho
Nowadays, a lot of bars and pubs (even in Mumbai) do include some really popular tapas varieties in their food menu, apart from the tried and tested best-selling favourites of their consumers. Even when they do so, they tend to modify the recipes as per the Indian tastes in order to survive the competitive restaurant scene in the country. Mumbai really needed a restaurant that specialized in tapas and Spanish cuisine sans the Indian twist to it. That’s when SOHO in Versova stepped in – to revolutionize the restaurant scene in Mumbai, only to shut down a year later, leaving many patrons (including me) totally dejected! Much to my delight, El Toro (translates to ‘The Bull’ in Spanish) opened up in the quaint neighborhood of Bandra reclamation on May 10th this year. This merely five months old restaurant owned by 3 partners – Chef Onkar Samarth (former ITC Maratha chef), Mr. Ashith (also the owner of the much loved Smokin’ Joe’s pizza chain) and Mr. Ketan (who also runs a production house), is now all set to offer a large variety of Tapas and specializes in Spanish and European cuisines.
Tapas (derived from a Spanish verb “tapar” which means ‘to cover’) are a wide variety of Spanish appetizers or small plates. The tapas culture originated in Spain where eating dinner happens to be quite a late affair and during the time gap between lunch and dinner Spaniards would often go bar hopping and enjoy small portions of food with their booze everywhere they went. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation over drinks because people are not always really keen on having an entire meal set before them along with their drinks. Gradually, the Tapas culture began to spread and gain popularity in various countries across the globe, leading to inclusion of multi-cuisine dishes in the Tapas menu (no longer restricting it to Spanish dishes alone).
The decor is very minimalistic yet so elegant and poise, the dim lighting and the large glass windows on the wall facing the street adding to its charm. The white marbled table tops, comfortable couches, well cushioned chairs and the music simply blend well with the classy décor, making it a perfect place for a romantic dinner or a heart-warming and relaxing meal with pals. The restaurant houses a long and well stocked bar counter with tall bar stools on the other end of the dining hall and like many other restaurants in the city, they also grow their own micro-greens right outside the dining hall and on their terrace.
Bowl Of Olives
These pitted jumbo green olives were irresistibly addictive owing to their sour, saltier and faintly bitter flavour which was further accentuated by the chili oil dressing.
The combination of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, other seasonal vegetables and home grown micro-greens together constituted a crunchy and hearty treat; the bright citrusy and sweet dressing simply escalating the taste further! However, this salad is skip-able as it is served in most restaurants in Mumbai.
Carpaccio Of Beet With Feta Cheese
The mild salty-tangy flavour of crumbled feta and the nutty crunch of the roasted peanuts (as well as the marinade) effectively helped in masking the muddy odour that beets generally have and I could appreciate the appealingly earthy and sweet-ish flavour of the thin slices of the marinated beets. The home grown micro-greens further finished off the dish in style!
Pimentos Rellenos Con Tres Quesos
Hollowed out jalapenos were stuffed with a combination of Machengo (a Spanish cheese), red Leicester (an English cheese) and cottage cheese that wonderfully oozed out in every bite revealing a somewhat grassy aroma and a nutty-sweet and tangy flavour. The balsamic reduction drizzle further imparted this baked goodness a faint fruity undertone.
Berenjenas A La Parilla
While Berenjenas A La Parilla simply means sliced and grilled aubergines, their version comprised of grilled aubergine slices topped with garlic infused cream cheese and smoked tomato salsa. The well mellowed down bitterness and the resulting deliciousness of aubergines as well as the strong smoky flavour of the dish definitely took me by a pleasant surprise, albeit the negligible tangy and spicy notes of the salsa. It’s, therefore, safe to say that overall this dish could have been better.
These crispy fried and delicious potato cubes were almost completely covered in a lip smackingly spicy and smoky tomato sauce made in-house and the oodles of sour cream served atop not only added some more moisture to the preparation but also enabled us to regulate its spice quotient as per individual preferences.
These firm,springy and flaky (not mushy) yet moist Tuna roundels had a subtle and clean flavour (not overly pungent) and were served in a pool of sweet and slightly citrus soya and ginger sauce. This was the ONLY non-vegetarian Tapas that I absolutely loved!
These crispy and crunchy battered rings with a borderline sweetness imparted by the onions in the centre were simply nailed to perfection and couldn’t have been better! Dusting the battered exterior with a combination of salt, crushed pepper and paprika (their in-house substitute to old bay seasoning) completely took this to an unmatchable level and the creamy smooth garlic aioli served alongside was again a delight to taste owing to its delicately pungent and heated taste.
Alitas De Pollo
These tender and juicy chicken wings were tossed in fiery and hot Goan vindaloo gravy and finished with whisky. This one is definitely for the ones who prefer comforting and familiar Indian curry like flavours in global dishes.
Chicken Liver Pate
The crispy and crunchy melba toast enabled us to scoop out portions of the smooth and creamy chicken liver pate and the organic preserve served alongside. The strong taste of chicken liver is quite an acquired one though. The sweetness of the organic preserve couldn’t effectively mask the strong flavour of liver either. It’s no surprise that I didn’t like the Pate served here.
Braised Lamb With Mash, Vegetable & Sauce Poivrée
The Slow cooked lamb meat was so succulent and juicy that it could quite effortlessly be manipulated into bite sized morsels. The warm and zesty black pepper gravy (also containing whole peppercorns) was again a delight to taste. While the sautéed vegetables added a crunch element to the dish, the mashed potatoes was a perfectly smooth and creamy treat!
Fish & Chips
The thick and crunchy battered crust enclosed absolutely tender Basa within. The beer effectively gave a lighter texture to the thick batter and an orange-brown colour. Given how flaky the texture of Basa is and how the fish has no inherent taste in particular, I would have preferred the use of Pomfret instead. The tartar sauce rightly let out a hint of lemon juice in it but missed out on the overall flavour and its peculiar rough consistency as the abundance of mayonnaise in it made it taste rather sweet and imparted it a creamy smooth texture instead. The ready-to-fry French fries served alongside were nothing to write home about; were a crispy and crunchy treat nevertheless.
The creamy and smooth risotto (albeit it’s tad too greasy and heavy consistency) turned out to be a wholesome treat and the plenty of chopped chorizo further added a meaty twist to it. It was finished off in style with some parmesan shavings and their home grown micro-greens.
This creamy, smooth and sweet-sour baked yoghurt topped with sweet and mildly tangy dehydrated strawberries was proof that a combination of such rather simple elements can also turn out to be a delicious treat.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
The pudding was warm and adequately moist from within and the thick, sticky and gooey toffee sauce further added some more moisture to it and enabled us devour it with such pleasure. However, caramel was the surprise element in this one – well balancing the sweetness of the toffee sauce with its salty flavour, thereby taking it to yet another level of awesomeness! The white chocolate ice cream further added a cooling touch to the warm pudding and the warm-cool combination only made it even more delectable.
Dark Chocolate Mousse
This was a sweet, adequately creamy, dense and smooth mousse resting on short pastry crumble that further imparted a wonderful crunch to every bite and the candied orange placed atop added a sharp tang that went exceptionally well (like it almost always does) with chocolate.
Agua De Valencia, a signature Spanish drink comprising of orange juice, gin, vodka and champagne, revealed a refreshingly fruity and citrusy flavour with surprisingly just a hint of alcohol (for the 3 different varieties of alcohol that went into this one) but was quite a potent one and it was only a matter of time till we realized that. The Gin based Cucumber Martini was absolutely cooling and soothing to taste. The whisky based Old Fashioned was just spot on and the vodka based Mango And Chilli Caprioska was yet another hit!
The service was extremely warm, welcoming and attentive, only a bit too slow. The attendants were very well groomed, polite and efficient. Chef Onkar Samarth was a kind, friendly, patient and courteous host.
Food quality – 3.5/5
Food quantity – 3.5/5
Beverages – 4.5/5
Ambience – 4/5
Service – 4/5
VFM – NA (This meal was courtesy an invitation by the restaurant to sample their menu).