My friend Rachel B and I (aka Les Rachelles) have a new game we play….”Things That Cost Less Than/Same As Our Meal at Toro Toro”.
Believe me, it’s a robust list:
- A flight to Dubai on Qatar Airways
- A flight to Dubai on FlyDubai plus a night in a four star hotel
- These Jimmy Choos
- A night in a Grand Deluxe Room at the Marsa Malasz Kempinski where the restaurant in located in
- Dinner for one (set tasting menu with matching wines) at Noma in Denmark which has been voted the best restaurant in the world.
Now I have been sitting on this review for some time. My fellow bloggers and media have gushed about this restaurant. So on a Tuesday night last month, Rachel B and I ventured onto the island that houses it to give it a try.
Toro Toro is a South American fusion restaurant dubbed Pan Latin. It plays on the heavy Japanese and Asian influence in South American cuisine and also takes a trip to Mexico. It’s also the flagship restaurant of the celebrity chef Richard Sandoval, who I happen to be a big fan of. He now has two restaurants in Doha, including Pampano on the Pearl and I have dined at several of his restaurants in Dubai and the US.
So I was excited.
Let’s just say our 7pm arrival was memorable. After checking in with the hostesses, we were told there was a leak in the bar/kitchen area and we entered to see staff madly mopping the floors. Once seated, we were told that the leak would delay some aspects of the meal. Not to worry, we would have some cocktails and their legendary cheesy bread while we waited.
I kinda wish I took a photo of the bread in question because it’s central to the story.The bread is called Pão De Quejjo, was served alongside tomato and chimichurri sauces. Of course we devoured the bread and as the food was delayed, we asked if perhaps we could have some more given the delay.
“Yes that is possible,” said the waiter. “But it will be QR15.”
Silence….then incredulity. In my eight years of dining experience in Doha, I have never once paid for bread or even additional bread. Hungry, we reluctantly agreed. It was indeed cheesy and soft, but it did leave a sour taste in our mouths, but hey it’s bread right?
The waiter said we should order a number of smaller dishes and a meat main to share, recommending the Churrasco Skewer.
The starters were exactly that, bite size.
The much hyped guacamole was tasty but lacked any real spice. Tuna Takake was more of a winner, fresh and light.
I also liked the crispy prawns which was coated in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and came with sweet and fruity mango sauce.
The beef rolls, which had been pushed heavily by our waiter, were tasty and unusual thanks to the truffled teriyaki, a departure from the usual seafood rolls served up in Doha. We also tried the emapandas, which came in a serving of three, weird considering most diners would probably be couples. The mushroom flatbread which were keen to try, was a bit of a disappointment as well,
The main event – the churrasco – was eagerly anticipated. Served on a skewer and meant for two people, it included Australian lamb chop, ribeye steak, Achiote marinated chicken and Brazilian Picanha Wagyu fillet. Picanha is cut of beef popular in Brazil but little known in other parts of the world. Butchers outside South America generally divide it into other cuts like the rump, the round and the loin, but in Brazil it’s highly prized.
I didn’t take a photo of the meat, because lets be honest, meat doesn’t photograph well. In hindsight I should have so I could show you what QR450 looks like.
The chicken was my favorite, it was rubbed in Achiote chilli, ark red, tart tasting powder made from annotto seed. In Mexico this is called achiote powder. The powder is used both as a flavoring and a colorant and has a deep and smoky flavor. The Picanha was tender and juicy as well which makes me wonder why it isn’t used more. I was underwhelmed by the lamb and the ribeye serviceable.
Service on the evening started off distant but ended up being almost hovering. I have never been asked so often whether I was enjoying the food. This could have been because the restaurant was quiet and because of the chaos we were treated with on arrival.
The room itself is sexy, all dark wood, leather chairs and very, very moody. In the cooler months I can see this being popular, especially it’s bar on the second floor which is apparently staffed by some very handsome bar tenders.
We didn’t order a bottle of wine, just two cocktails each an two glasses of wine by the glass each plus water and diet coke. We also didn’t have dessert.
When the bill came, I looked and thought , “Well that’s ok”, until the hostess shyly pointed out there was a second page. BOOM.
For two people, it was more than QR1500. This includes the Qr15 for the extra bread.
For once in our over articulated lives, Les Rachelles were rendered speechless.
Now as I have said many times, I have been known to spend a lot on food and in Doha, there is a new trend to embrace high end food – Nobu, Alain Ducasse and the ever dependable Hakkasan all stellar examples.
The food was good, it was beautifully and thoughtfully presented and several of the dishes were absolute stand-outs (the tuna, the prawns and the chicken just a few).
And all props to the staff for their service while trying to deal with the aftermath of the flood.
I had started to doubt my tastes and experiences when talking to others in my industry who thought this one of the best in the city. It’s early days, the restaurant only opening a couple of months ago, and all concepts mature and adapt to the market.
Would I go back? Probably, as I said, the food was good, but I would choose dishes differently. I am also keen to try the upstairs bar.
But I have to call this as I see and taste it. Frankly, I am hard pressed to call our experience good value for money.
Toro Toro is located at the gardens of the island of Marsa Malaz Kempinski.
Phone: +974 4035 5101