Went to Toro Bravo with a couple friends on Monday night. We started with the complimentary chickpeas, which were a bit brutal on the bicuspids -- stopped eating them after a couple bites. For the first round we had the salt cod fritters, which were served on top of a very pungent garlic aioli that hit the palate hard at first; the outside of the fritter was fried really crispy, just on the brink of being too dark, which contrasted perfectly with the mashed potato-consistency of the inside. At the back end of the bite, I could taste the fish -- a little fishy off-flavor -- but, all in all, the highlight of Round One. We also had the chicken and pork fritters: the texture of the filling was like rillette, but not much flavor.
Each of us had a glass of wine with each round, so all told we spent $150 (not including tip) and dinner lasted almost 3 hours. Service was attentive, never had to wait long to order another round of food or drinks, if a bit impersonal.
This was my second time there. Each time I've thought the food was good, but I haven't been, like, WOW! This time the food seemed more Italian-inspired than Spanish, but maybe it was just the assortment we ordered. At any rate, I'm sure I'll be back for a third, hopefully charmed, time.
Southeast-centric sushi reviews...
Kappaya, at 34th and SE Division, is our neighborhood standby. There's nothing fancy about the food or ambience, but the ingredients are good, and the kitchen turns out some great soups and lunch bentos.
Located deceptively in a strip mall, Ichidai, around the 60s on SE Powell, is a step above, atmosphere- and cuisine-wise, more traditional Japanese-style. I've had great steak and sushi there.
BaRa, in a renovated house on 21st between SE Clinton and Division, is pricier, but they serve some really excellent rolls. They also have a private tatami room with iPod player.
Masu at 30th and SE Stark is the swankiest southeast sushi spot. Like the immaculate, modern interior design, their food tends to be a little complicated, with price tags to match... But it's definitely a cool place and worth trying.
Takahashi is the polar opposite to Masu. Far out in the 100s on SE Holgate, Takahashi is country-style sushi -- kind of like the Cracker Barrel of sushi joints. It's good, especially if you go on discounted tempura or sushi nights, and their combination dinners are really hearty.
I have friends who love Mio on 41st and SE Hawthorne, but from the impersonable service and cheap tables to the hot sushi (I think they actually call it sushi "pizza"), it feels like it belongs in a mall food court.
I've heard great things about Yoko's, but haven't been in years. Murata and Hiroshi are both on my bucket list. Never been to Saburo -- the line has always been too daunting -- but again, friends love it for the massive portions.
In other areas, Koji's on Barbur and other outposts are always decent. Syun in Hillsboro is worth making a destination.
All this talking about sushi makes me want some -- Happy eating!