Sometimes it seems there is always a new restaurant in town, but it is rare that such a major location, like Jumeirah at Etihad Towers on the Corniche, welcomes a new eatery. Toro Toro opened its doors officially just a few weeks ago, but while it is new to us here in the capital, it is already well-known in Miami, DC and Dubai. It is a pan-Latin steakhouse from the New York based chef, Richard Sandoval.
The restaurant juts out over the Hotel's private beach, and as it situated on the far end of the pool, it really feels as if it is not a part of it at all. The dining room is dimly lit but colorful, making it feel warm and inviting. The dark wood, leather seating and Latin American art give off an air of rustic luxury.
Toro Toro which combines the Japanese word for tuna and the Spanish word for bull is an example of the interlaced cuisine that is featured. There is an extensive menu of ceviches and sashimi that then moves through abundant appetizers, generous salads and onto the true meatiness of the South American steakhouse, ending with the option of Churrascaria dining.
For this review, the focus was on the small plates and the steak. The Churrasco will be reviewed next time as it was still not up and running...which is a good thing, because there is no way that you could eat from all sections of the menu in one go.
The Smoky Guacamole starter is standout. The guacamole arrives at your table covered in a glass dome filled with campfire smoke. When they lift the dome, the smell of the smoke reminds you of cooking in the fresh outdoors. The smoke quickly dissipates and only the subtle aroma remains, lingering into your first few bites. The Corn Bread is another treat. The texture is cake like and served in a piping hot skillet. While it is on the sweet side, the addition of chunks of fresh and fried corn, with the side of tomato salsa makes it addicting.
Toro Toro offers up some fantastic tacos, but my favorite was the seared tuna tacos. They use a dainty butter leaf as a wrap and are both spicy and sweet at the same time. One plate comes with four bite-size tacos, and I could have easily eaten them all on my own. The Empanadas are what you would hope for in a crispy pockets of warm filling.
Delving deeper into the lesser known dishes is the Tacu Tacu de Choclo. It is essentially a corn pudding that is seared to create a cloud-like buttery pocket of richness, topped with grilled vegetables in a smokey anticuchera sauce. And that same sauce is featured on the the Sides menu, on the Grilled Cauliflower. As many times as I have eaten cauliflower, this could be my new favorite version.
While you can easily make a meal of the small plates, the steak gives real competition to Abu Dhabi's many prized steakhouses. The American beef is seared crispy, but melts in your mouth. They offer Greater Omaha, US Prime and even a Waygu Ribeye.
There is a short and simple dessert menu with a Dulce de Leche Cheese Cake that was plated innovatively in four small quarter-circle pieces, rather than the usual (boring) slice. The most popular choice, however, is the modern twist on Tres Leches cake. It is fluffy and sweet in traditional proportion with a center of cookie crumble and a dab of mango ice cream.
First impressions of Toro Toro are very good. While it is pricey, it is no more so than the competition. Located in Etihad Towers, it should be a mainstay for hotel guests and locals. Expats may find the price point more fitting for special occasions. Although I have to return to try the rest of the menu and the much talked about upstairs bar, Toro Toro could very well be one of my new favorites.
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Open noon to 3AM