Pan-Latin cuisine is setting trends around the world, and as Abu Dhabi’s dining out scene explodes, the cultures seem to be infiltrating the scene with various restaurants trying to jump on the back of the growing craze.
But Toro Toro was established years ago in Dubai, with acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval at the helm. And rather than trying to keep up with trends, he was simply trying to educate diners about Mexican and Latin cuisines – it’s not all about fajitas and nachos, you know.
Now, Toro Toro has opened its doors in Abu Dhabi. The Latin influence is clear in the décor, which like its people and culture is vibrant and loud. Dark wood-panelled walls are brightened up with digital frames that display rotating photos and flickering fires, while green, red, blue and yellow velvet chairs and sofas pop against colourful geometric cushions, painted bull skulls, large copper columns and shimmering beaded chandeliers.
The menu features a range of options, such as ceviche, tiraditos, rice dishes and grills, some of which we’re told are designed for sharing, while others can be made as individual portions.
While the dishes all sound authentic, and they are, don’t expect food that’s spooned in mounds on makeshift plates made of cornhusks.
The smoked guacamole is treated like royalty, served on a black slate plate under a tall glass dome. Delicately lifted, the dome is used to waft smoke around before you scoop up the creamy avocado with crunchy corn tortilla chips. What a way to start.
The sea bass ceviche is nestled in the length of a clear glass bottle that sits on a bed of ice. Chunky cubes of the fresh raw fish blend well with grilled pine nuts, raw onion, red chilli and sweet potato, with all the flavour coming from the leche de tigre, a typical Peruvian marinade with an orange juice base.
Ironically, my friend and I both highlight our favourite dishes as ones with the same sauce. The perfectly cooked grilled octopus and veggie-friendly tacu tacu de choclo are marinated and served in a slightly sweet but smokey sauce. Our waiter tells us this is a traditional Peruvian sauce made with mustard, aji chilli pepper, vinegar, cumin and cilantro – it’s to die for.
Dessert is equally as traditional but with a distinctive contemporary spin. This gourmet version of tres leches, a sponge cake soaked in three types of milk, is donut shaped, with a quenelle of passion fruit sorbet delicately placed over the hole in the centre, surrounded by dollops of cream, passion fruit jelly, biscuit crumbs and fresh raspberries. It’s not the best I’ve had but a good end to the meal all the same.
Despite it’s fantastic food, Toro Toro is not cheap by any means, and the service will need to improve to match the price tag, but we’re hoping any issues will be ironed out soon and then Toro Toro will become the place to be.
Need to know:
Location: Toro Toro, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche West
We say: Delicious pan-Latin cuisine in a vibrant setting
Cost: AED 425 for two
Opening times: Daily 7pm-midnight
Contact: 02 811 5882, firstname.lastname@example.org
WORDS Rachael Perrett