Certain properties come with specific expectations, don’t they? With Chef Richard Sandoval behind a brand that is already well established in the region, including restaurants in both Doha and Dubai, I was excited to visit the recently opened Toro Toro in Abu Dhabi (as the Abu Dhabi branch lacks a website, I’ll link to the Dubai venue, just for reference). Having missed the epic launch party the week before (many a hangover was witnessed on my Instagram feed the following day), my guest and I traipsed awkwardly through the pool deck area of Etihad Towers to reach the entrance (O signage, where art thou?). Apparently, there is an additional route by the Aston Martin showroom that we both missed, and I would encourage you to find the correct approach, rather than dodge wet towels and sun loungers. On arrival, we are greeted by two giant white bulls…and a number of senior management from our former employer, but that’s a story for another day.
For those who have lived in the capital for a few years or more, you’ll know that this location has seen a number of tenants come and go, with varying degrees of success. Thus, it follows that Toro Toro occupies a massive venue, overlooking the water and marina, all in the shadow of the towering Jumeirah property. In nicer weather, the outdoor terrace is a stunning space to enjoy a cocktail or two. Inside, primary colors are in full force, and kitsch on the walls feels a bit juvenile. I suppose one could classify the decor as ‘festive,’ but it’s a bit OTT for my tastes. My friend and I are escorted through the dining room to one of the tables facing the windows (a seating arrangement I would request again, as it is the best seat to sit and people watch). With the drinks menu promptly presented, I start off with a delicious and charmingly presented cocktail, while my guest is able to some of the Sauvignon Blanc options before choosing her preference. A kindly gesture, although I’m not sure if it was exclusive treatment — this being a prescheduled appointment and all.
After reviewing the menu (about what you would expect, from ceviches to warm and cold starters to steak), I inquire about the ‘Discovery Menu’ which is a plentiful offer at AED390 for two people and presents many of the best dishes from the restaurant. Spoiler alert: it’s more than two people could ever eat. I like dinners where my most difficult decisions are: ‘another glass?’ or ‘how do you prefer your steak cooked?’
My favorite dishes?
Ceviche de Huanchinango, AED55. The price is right, the taste delivers, and it was a dish where we were reluctant to let go, even if there was just a spoonful remaining. Points to the traditional corn kernels to add a nice amount of texture.
While I would never classify myself as lazy, in this instance, after reviewing both Zomato and the website, I cannot determine what exactly this plate was, only that I enjoyed it. True life: when food bloggers rely too much on what is already out there. I will tell you the presentation delivered, as did the taste. If you are aware of the correct title, please be so kind as to let me know.
As you can read in my original comments below, yes, I have suffered through some terrible steaks recently (how one can mess up a steak, especially in a steakhouse, is perhaps a question for another day…I digress). This American beef was perfectly cooked, buttery, pre-sliced and wonderfully seasoned. Even though towards the end of the meal, we found room for this beautifully cooked protein. I believe we were splitting the tenderloin, AED190 on its own and easily enough for two people.
What would I do differently? There are a few dishes that didn’t precisely hit for me. For example, the famous ‘smoked guacamole’ was a bit of a miss. While the presentation is unlike any other, quite honestly, I’d rather enjoy the taste of the tableside variety at Loca. Furthermore, while we connected with our waiter and I welcomed the engagement, I can understand that other guests might prefer a more distanced/less intense experience. Also, even though I probably did not have room for it, including a dessert on the Discovery Menu would’ve been a welcome addition.
Worth noting? The price! As mentioned above, short of Zahira, I can’t think of many places in Abu Dhabi or Dubai where you can get such an amount of food for AED390. Even if you add a bottle of wine (we enjoyed a particularly delicious Sauvignon Blanc), I don’t think the additional cost would break the bank. I also thought there were a fair number of vegetarian-friendly dishes for what most would consider a protein-oriented venue.
Would I go back? Most definitely! While I don’t like the odd disconnect from the hotel, the venue was already vibing for a Monday night.
A bit of a swing here, but I’m going to consider this restaurant highly recommended.
Have you been to Toro Toro anywhere in the world? What’s your favorite dish?
A to Za’atar was a guest of Toro Toro Abu Dhabi. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.