Jamie Bissonnette, right, and co-owner Ken Oringer of Toro NYC.
If this isn’t the dawning of a new era in culinary greatness, we don’t know what is: Boston and New York City now share custody of the Hub’s cult-favorite tapas joint, Toro. The South End eatery has recently expanded its sex-on-a-small-plate reach, opening up a second location in Chelsea just last month. We asked chef/owner (and now frequent traveler on the Boston/NYC Amtrak line) Jamie Bissonnette for a side-by-side comparison of Toro Boston and Toro NYC.
The Chow Toro Boston will always be the place where fledgling foodies learned how much grilled corn they could consume (the answer: a ton), and got familiar with roasted bone marrow and uni bocadillos. Toro New York continues to offer the same comprehensive tribute to Barcelona-style tapas with a few newcomers, like the Paella de Langostino ($90/$45), a badass lobster and black truffle paella with sunchokes and herbs, and Pulpo ‘Del Mercado’ ($9), marinated octopus heads with olives and bay leaf. But square footage is the main game-changer here: The larger kitchen and dining room in NYC allows for a menu to match — an impressive 20-odd additional plates to choose from, bringing the count from 44 to 60 — but how divergent are the two cities' taste buds? “So far we are seeing many of the same favorites, but a bigger variety,” Bissonnette says. “It's wicked cool to see the corn, tripe and abalone selling so well together.”
The Booze In Boston, count on a curated list of wines by the glass hailing from all over Spain, wine on tap and a heftier cocktail list than its little sister to the South. In NYC, they’ve brought some of their favorite vinos from Boston — along with a lengthier list of wines by the bottle — and give gin and tonics their own hallowed section, inspired by their pre-opening exploratory trip to Barcelona and San Sebastián. Sherry holds its own on both menus, as does the age-old tradition of splurging on a porrón and getting cava all over your face.
Verdad y Amour, a cocktail of tequila, hibiscus and ginger.
The Look Toro Boston’s design is marked by a cozy, exposed brick and rafters feel, and the New York outpost adheres to the same aesthetic, with a few stylish additions. New York's Toro boasts an ivy-covered wall, hunks of aged jamón hanging in the dining room and big, arched windows that flood the space with light. “As we did the [demolition], we kept seeing things [and] would say, ‘Wait, don't cover that up’ and ‘That looks great, let's not change it,’” he notes. “The ambiance is like a huge dinner party every night, with music we'd want to listen to.”
The Crazy Anyone who has wedged themselves in the door on a Saturday night in Boston, smushed up against fellow waitlisters, holding a glass of tempranillo aloft and contemplating juggling a few plates on your knees in order to make it through the two- to three-hour wait, is familiar with the unique insanity that goes along with an evening at the flagship Toro. Since there are no reservations, a night here requires patience — and a good sense of humor. In NYC, half the room is saved for walk-ins and half for reservations. At a little over two weeks in, the wait clocks in at about one hour on weekends. “It's crazy in a different way,” Bissonnette says. “We’re booked two to three weeks out. That's the crazy part to me.”