Monday, May 9, 2011

Portland Restaurant: Toro Bravo

What: Toro Bravo
Where: 120 NE Russel St.
When: 5 pm - 10 pm Sun-Thur, 5 pm - 11 pm Fri-Sat
Honey's Heart: Google

Have you ever sat around with a couple friends, enjoying HH, talking about a sweepstakes you've entered, but surely won't win...but then you do? That is what happened to my friend Katie last month.

She called and said that she won the "Google Hotpot (now absorbed into Google Places) Jackpot" competition and we needed to choose a place to go to dinner...okay, wait, back up. This is how it worked: The "Google Hotpot Jackpot" competition was meant to encourage people to share and rate places they know with friends and family. Basically, an incentive to jumpstart Hotpot usage. We can argue whether this results in honest and thoughtful reviews since the goal is to do the most of them, but I can't say I was upset with the result! Katie won a dinner for herself and 4 friends at any restaurant in Portland...and we had $750 to spend!

Sign and exterior of Toro Bravo, a Spanish (ta...Image via Wikipedia

Honestly, once we began searching it was hard to find a restaurant where we could spend that kind of money that wasn't primarily a steak house, but we finally settled on Toro Bravo, a Spanish inspired tapas restaurant. It was the perfect place to share a ton of different menu items, order bottles of wine and sangria, and celebrate, Spanish style, our friend's birthday who is currently living in Spain (miss you Sofi!)

We arrived for our 7pm reservations, were seated, brought a complimentary bottle of champagne and immediately had a celebrity sighting. Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia was across the room from us. Free champagne, free dinner (except, of course, for Katie's hard work), and a celebrity sighting! This was shaping up to be a good night. We sipped champagne, toasted to a night on Google, and looked over the drink menu.

Katie and I ordered the Sage Seville ($9) with Hendrick's gin, St. Germain, sage, and Fever Tree tonic, while Adam and Cooper opted for a bourbon beverage, The Williamsburg ($8) featuring Buffalo Trace bourbon, Imbue vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Fernet-Branca. Megan went a different route and chose the Amanacer ($9), a tequila cocktail with El Jimador, Aperol, grapefruit, and house grenadine. She wasn't a huge fan, but Katie and I loved it so they swapped. Their cocktail menu is varied, unique and delicious!

Our champagne and cocktails gave us a chance to peruse the menu which is broken down into four sections: Pinchos, Tapas, Charcuteria, and Raciones. We decided to take it section by section.

We ordered toasted almonds with sea salt ($2), marinated olives and pickled vegetables ($3), bacon wrapped dates ($2 ea x 10!), steve's cheese board ($10), and octopus a la plancha "becerrita" ($7). I could have lived without the almonds, marinated olives and pickled vegetables, but absolutely not without the bacon wrapped dates. I want some right now. Of course, you can't go wrong with a cheese board and if you like octopus, you'll love the octopus a la plancha. It was cooked perfectly!

Bacon Wrapped Date and Octopus a la Plancha

With some help from our waitress we selected the tortilla espanola with nettles ($7), griddled shrimp and chilies ($9), potatoes bravas ($4/7), basque piperade with duck egg ($8), harira (moroccan lamb and lentil stew) ($4/8), grilled asparagus ($8), hand cut noodles ($9), empanada ($8) and grilled flat bread (with black truffle cheese and arugula) ($9).

Tortilla Espanola with nettles

Empanada with confit beef, almonds, and honey

Some of our favs included the the tortilla espanola, potatoes bravas, grilled asparagus, hand cut noodles and grilled flatbread...which we may have ordered another one of.

Grilled Flat Bread...SO DELICIOUS!

Out of this section we only ordered the chorizo and manchego with country bread ($7) which I don't have a picture of and honestly don't remember.

Now it was time to go nuts. We still had money to spend and this was the biggest section. Again guided by our waitress, we ordered seared scallops with romesco ($14), moroccan tuna with dried cherry couscous ($12), squid ink pasta (with hazelnuts, anchovy and egg yolk) ($12), baked polenta with roast beef, peppers, and onions ($4/8), oxtail croquettes with chili mayonnaise ($14), north african sausages with fries ($8/15), grilled moorish lamb chops ($10/20), jamon wrapped chicken with pisto manchego ($14), house smoked coppa steak ($7/14) and finally the paella toro (with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, clams and mussels, $19).

Scallops with romesco


Squid Ink Pasta

Something tasty.... ? 

Throughout dinner we also enjoyed the Red Sangria ($6/15) and a bottle of the '08 Dominio de Pingus ($60.) So much food and it was all fabulous, but at this point I think we were all feeling a little bit like this...

I wish I had been hungrier at this point so I could have really enjoyed the paella. The squid ink pasta was also really wonderful and I'm glad we weren't scared away by the anchovy syrup and, well, the squid ink. We did our best on this round, but definitely had a ton of leftovers and enough money remaining to send a bottle of champagne to a table celebrating a birthday, though it happened to be the owner of Toro Bravo's sister restaurant, Tasty n Sons, so they were probably getting a deal anyway! Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?

Thanks again to Google and Katie for such a wonderful night! Google, you can pay for my dinner anytime, how does Friday night sound?
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