Date of Visit: June 21, 2006
Walked-in for 4 at 20:00, seated in 10 minutes
276 Augusta Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
reservation not accepted
food for 4 plus a pitcher of sangria (tax & tips included): $150
Most of the menu items are priced under $12 and are good sizes for sharing between four for tasting. Of course, for some of the dishes that I liked best, I would love to have the whole dish to myself!
- bread with fresh cheese and olives: the slices of baguette were drizzled with a bit of olive oil but the wedge of mild-flavour fresh cheese is the reason to order this dish. Combined with the saltiness of the olives, it was something good to munch on when deciding what to order.
- arugula salad with machego cheese and toasted almonds: a lightly-dressed salad with a slightly sweet vinaigrette. The machego cheese was quite tasty and complemented the peppery taste of the arugula.
- jamon serrano with fruit compote: the paper-thin slices of ham was much sweeter than I expected. Combined with the sweetness of the fruist compote, the whole dish did not have the salty punch that I was hoping for.
- fish ceviche with yams and corn (toasted and fresh): One of my favourite dishes of the evening. This was a "salad" of fish ceviche pieces tossed with slivers of onion, chopped cilantro, red peppers, fresh and toasted corn kernels on rounds of steamed yams. The fish tasted fresh and refreshing from the citrus treatment. The toasted and fresh corn kernels provided very interesting textural contrast. Oh, and the yams! Their natural sweetness and starchiness was so good.
- smoked trout with fingerling potato and avocado: This dish was very similar in concept to the fish ceviche except that the quenelle of avocado dip introduced a creamy component. However, personally I did not think the richness of the avocado worked too well with the lightly smoky flavour of the trout.
- octopus terrine with cherry tomato and capers salad: This was another favourite of mine. The triangle slice of octopus terrine was exactly the reason why I love this sea creature: a little chewy and so full of flavour. Besides, it was beautiful to behold with its profile of circles after circles of tentacles tightly packed together in creamy white and dark purple. The accompanying red and yellow cherry tomato salad with capers was good too. No siree, bland watery tomatos need not apply. These little globes were appropriately sweet and tart.
- lamb loaf with eggplant: This was essentially a meat loaf given the middle-eastern treatment. The saffron-hued sauce was thick from the eggplant puree but surprisingly sweet with a subtle tint of anise. The two slices of lamb loaf were very tender but did not taste too "lamby". Would be good if served with slices of flatbread though.
- kingfish with sauce basquise: I was very skeptical when this dish arrived at the table. The fillet looked grey and absolutely overcooked that I seriously considered sending it back. However, upon tasting, it was still quite tender though I was not exactly overwhelmed. The sauce basquise was a mixture of tomato and sweet red pepper. Again, sweetness ruled in this kitchen.
- braised beef cheek and tongue with lima beans: With its clear broth, this dish reminded me of a summer version of pot au feu. Both the tongue and cheek (heehee) were very tender though a little lacking in flavour.
- piquillo peppers stuffed with salted cod on tapenade: stuffed piquillo peppers seem to be the de riguer dish around Toronto right now. I recently had them at Cava and spotted them at quite a few restaurants as well (especially tapas-style eatery and wine bars). Torito's version was not particularly outstanding but the addition of salty tapenade rised this dish above the ordinary.
Service was attentive although it appeared a little disorganized at times. When we arrived, we wanted a table at the busy patio. Since there were only 2-people tables available, a server seated us at the bar with menus to whet our appetite while he rearranged the tables to make room for us. Between the numerous waiters who served us, they must have asked us how we liked the meal at least three times in the evening. Not much to complain about the service.
With so many new restaurants in Toronto boasting tapas-style dining, distinguishing yourself can be difficult at times. Most of the dishes we had this evening were enjoyable although only a couple were truly memorable. However, given the relaxing atmosphere at the intimate patio, I would say it was a very positive experience overall. Probably not for special occasions, however, Torito is a great place for a casual dinner with a few friends.