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Much Ado About Toro, Boston

25 Jan

A search for Boston’s best restaurants brings up Toro. After a foodie friend recommended the Spanish restaurant, my boyfriend and I decided to give it a try. Toro does not accept reservations, so we arrived relatively early – at 5 PM on a Sunday evening. We waited for a table, eagerly anticipating the delicious tapas to come. 15 minutes later, we are seated at two bar stools facing the front window, overlooking the patio. All the tables inside were filled, with empty seats available only at long communal tables. Here’s how our evening went:

5:20 PM: Our glasses of water arrive, and we wait hungrily, hoping to be able to place our order.

5:40 PM: Finally, our waitress comes to take our order.

Toro - tuna belly6:00 PM: After what feels like a neverending wait, our tapas begin to arrive slowly, one by one. The ventresca (tuna belly) arrives first, as one lonely serving – two slices of tuna on one toasted slice of bread, and topped with celery. We awkwardly try to cut this thing into two pieces. This dish is saved only by the yummy tomato tapenade that had soaked into the bread.

IMAG1481Pork meatballs are juicy yet airy, melt-in-your mouth, flavourful goodness.

Toro - stewI really enjoyed the Catalan seafood stew (suquet marisco) with its complex flavours, full of lobster and clams.

IMAG1483Empanadas have a crispy corn shell and a soft interior of potatoes and chicken. They are served with a fine  green tomatillo salsa and light mayo.

IMAG1484The smokey flavour of the smoked duck leg is complemented by the sweetness of a quince glaze.

IMAG1486-1My favourite dish of the night was probably the beef check – it was tender and melted in my mouth, served with a cold farro salad with radish.

IMAG1487Lubina a la Sal, a salt-crusted Mediterranean bass is impressively presented. The whole fish is served on a plank, crusted with sea salt and herbs, and dotted inside with garlic cloves.

7:00 PM – We are finished eating and a busboy takes our plates away.

7:10 PM  – We request the check.

7:20 PM – Finally, the check is signed and we leave.

The Final Word: The food was delicious, but service felt incredibly slow, and it was difficult to get our waitress’ attention. Is Toro Boston’s best Spanish restaurant? Maybe, though Solea, just west of the city, gives Toro a good run for its money.

Info: Toro, 1704 Washington Street, Boston, MA, 02118 USA

Toro on Urbanspoon

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Montreal Food Tour – Day 1

8 Sep

My boyfriend and I visited my cousin in Montreal for a weekend. We spent some time taking in a few sights, and doing a lot of eating!

buns at Patisserie HarmonieWhen a city’s Chinatown has not one, but four gates, you know they mean business. We kicked off our day with a stop at Patisserie Harmonie in Chinatown to satisfy my craving for Chinese snacks. The BBQ pork buns with their shiny tops were full of pork. Other soft buns were laced with goodies like sweet potato or red bean paste, the latter being French  inspired with its croissant shape. There are more traditional treats too, like egg tarts (both the regular variety and the Portugese version), red bean-filled “pineapple” buns, and moon cakes. This is clearly a popular bakery – we returned the next day to overhear one of the staff say that it wasn’t as busy due to the holiday weekend, but there were still a constant flow of people to the store. Meanwhile, there are at least two other bakeries a stone’s throw from Harmonie, and those did not appear to be nearly as crowded.Patisserie Harmonie

Info: Patisserie Harmonie, 85 Rue De La Gauchetiere Ouest, Montreal, QC, Canada

Harmonie on Urbanspoon

We walked through Vieux Montreal, with its narrow sidewalks and elegant stone buildings. It was like being transported to Europe. We had a light lunch at the rooftop terrace of the boutique hotel, Hotel Nelligan (106 Rue Saint Paul Ouest, Montreal, QC).  Continue reading

Authentic Vietnamese: Pho Basil

8 Jul

Pho Basil (Boston, MA) is a small, unassuming restaurant in the Back Bay area that serves beautifully presented, authentic Vietnamese and Thai dishes. The staff is friendly and the food arrives quickly. The place is clean and bright, but like many good Boston-area restaurants, tables are small.

Calamari ($7) is perfectly crispy, served on a bed of fried wonton strips:

The Vietnamese crepe ($8) is a very thin, slightly crispy sheet folded over pork, onions and bean sprouts, served with a delicious ginger sauce:

Mango duck ($15) is a crispy fried duck, served with an assortment of bright vegetables, mango chunks, and a mango sauce. It’s topped with delightful, lightly- fried basil:

The bottom line: Pho Basil is a great place for a casual meal. You can easily fill your tummy without breaking the bank.

Pho Basil on Urbanspoon

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