Located on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market, Torito Tapas Bar is a restaurant that serves traditional Spanish tapas. For those of you who don’t know what tapas is, it’s basically small appetizer size dishes that can be eaten together as a meal. But before I go any further, I’d like to apologize for the lack of and the sub par quality of the photos. I went with a few friends that don’t quite appreciate photography and were complaining how they were “blinded” by the flash (How? I have no idea because I pointed the flash head towards the ceiling). Since they both literally screamed and had to shield their eyes from the “blinding light” (didn’t realize they were both vampires in disguise), I could only take a quick snap shot of each of the dishes we ordered, just so that I won’t be a nuisance (or vaporize my photophobic friends on the spot). Now that I got the disclaimer out of the way, I’ll continue with my review.
The restaurant has a cool and casual vibe. The space was dimly lit, minimalist and unpretentious – with exposed brick walls and large wooden tables. The one thing that stood out in terms of decor was the ornament of a bull’s head (looks like the one on their sign). The food menu was separated into 2 sections – cold tapas and hot tapas. Most of what we ordered were hot dishes. The first, and probably my favourite, dish of the night was crab croquette with parsley aioli.
The crab croquette was sitting on creamy guacamole and topped with micro greens. The croquettes were perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. I especially like the splash of lime that they used in the croquettes as it brought out the sweet flavour of the crabmeat.
The next dish was the Andalusian spinach and chickpeas stew.
I like the flavour of this dish but this wasn’t very stew like as it was kind of watery. The small croutons that were added in the dish gave it a very interesting crunchy texture. However, there were barely any spinach and the chickpeas were not cooked enough. I prefer my chickpeas to be tender but these chickpeas were al dente – not my favourite.
Next in line was angel hair pasta with clams and chorizo sausage (they had a Spanish name for it, but I forgot what it was).
This one completely missed the mark. The pasta was overcooked – not al dente. And the entire dish was way too salty. There were quite a few clams, but the salt was so overpowering that I couldn’t taste the clams. I was hoping and expecting a nice kick from the chorizo sausage but I couldn’t taste anything… other than saltiness.
I was feeling pretty disappointed by this point and was really hoping the next dish would salvage the last couple of misses. What came next was the roasted quail, pomegranate glaze and sweet squash puree.
The flavour of the quail was good. I enjoyed the pomegranate glaze as it gave the quail a slightly sweet and tangy flavour. However, I thought the quail itself could have been better roasted, with more caramelization to deepen the colour as well as flavour. The squash puree was good when you pair it with the sauce. The combination tasted strangely like pumpkin pie, but in a good way.
I was looking forward to the braised beef tongue and cheek dish as my friend raved about this one on more than one occasion.
Both the tongue and cheek were very tender and flavourful. However, I wished the braising liquid was thicker as it was kind of watery. But overall, it was a good dish.
The lamb chops came next.
I’m a lamb lover and this dish was pretty disappointing. I thought it was way too salty and it arrived at the table overcooked (medium) when I asked for my lamb medium rare. I think due to the cut of the meat (lamb shoulder) and that they were cooked to medium, it made the lamb tougher than it has to be. Also I find the salsa on the side was unnecessary; it didn’t add anything to the dish.
We decided to try out a cold dish, the white bass ceviche with sweet and crunchy corn. This one was actually recommended by the waitress and it’s supposedly the “house specialty”.
I liked the presentation when it arrived. I also like the interesting texture the crunchy corn added to the dish. However, the white bass wasn’t very good. The texture of the fish was slightly off putting because the bass, which is a meaty fish, became a little rubbery during the curing process. I couldn’t taste the flavour of the fish at all as it was overpowered by the lemon juice marinate.
The last dish, and the only highlight of the night, was the shrimps al ajillo.
I enjoyed this dish thoroughly. The shrimps were perfectly cooked and were nicely flavoured with the sauce. I’m not sure what the sauce was but it had a nice balance of sweetness and saltiness that brought out the flavour of the shrimps. There were a couple of toasted brioche that were placed beneath the shrimps. The brioche, although became slightly soggy, absorbed the sauce at the bottom so they became quite tasty and enjoyable.
Overall, I was unimpressed with Torito. There were way too many misses. Who knows, perhaps it was just a bad night? Considering that it wasn’t exactly inexpensive to eat there ($200 for four), I won’t be returning any time soon.
Torito Tapas Bar
Address: 276 Augusta Ave. Toronto