Monday, 6 May 2013

Toro Salao

367 Calle Tetuan
San Juan, Puerto Rico


In her opinion:
I couldn't have asked for a better first meal in San Juan! We were not sure where we wanted to eat our first supper so we just started walking and walking and walking unto we got into the SoFo area of Old San Juan. There we were greeted by a slew of after the other with menus outdoing themselves as we went along the street.

After much perusing we decided on Toro Salao...a tapas place with a great outdoor seating area. We were shown to our seats on the patio by the awesome Daniel.

Our waitress Nicole was equally awesome and attentive. I asked for a glass of water and the Ibiza Sangria Fizz.

This was a white citrus sangria. It was light and refreshing. I really enjoyed this glass of sangria which help highlight my food choices.

We decided to order a few tapas to share. We ordered "Batas Bravas con Aioli de Chorizo", "Croquetas de Bacalao con aioli de limon" and a "Coca Mediterranea".

We have had batas bravas in Spain in many different shapes and sizes but this version was spectacular. It was so tasty due to the chorizo aioli which added an unexpected flavour kick. 

Being of Portuguese culture; salted cod runs in out veins and I was a little hesitant to try a salted cod dish on a Caribbean island. But I have to say...I was not disappointed! These croquettes were incredibly delish. Crispy on the outside with a delectable soft centre. The "aioli de limon" was the perfect accompaniment!

The "coca Mediterranea" was the feature Spanish flatbread pizza for the night - it consisted of hummus, shrimp, chorizo, spinach, red onion and feta cheese. It was so incredibly good! I'm glad that our fabulous waitress, Nicole really described how good this was.

The manager, Violeta came out to talk to us about the restaurant and how it is a part of a 6 restaurant group including Dragonfly and Aguaviva. Her enthusiasm is unwavering. She is a fabulous spokesperson for this restaurant group.

As Nicole delivered our bill, she also delivered a delicious "Espresso Cheesecake" compliments of the house for us to take home. This was delectable. We couldn't have asked for a better first night restaurant. We felt truly welcomed by the Puerto Rican food scene...what a great start to a wonderful holiday!

The Food:

In his opinion:
As it happens in most of our travels, our dining choices usually come from a combination of prior research and also just wondering the streets perusing and talking to locals. Toro Salao had come up in our research and was in the back of our minds as we strolled the streets of Old San Juan. In this section of a few blocks of this lovely city, the possibilities for dining are truly infinite with choices for everyone and restaurant that cater to both the food lover or the tourist/cruise ship type.

Toro Salao is part of a company that runs 6 restaurants in the area but on this day our attraction to this restaurant had a lot to do with one word...tapas. Oh yes... those "appetizer" size portions of delicious food that make up such a big part of the Spanish food scene. How true to Spanish tapas can a restaurant in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico be?

I always make a point to not compare the tapas that I'm about to try to some amazing food nights that I have had in both Madrid and Barcelona. But it is hard not to. Nevertheless I try to remain unbias as much as possible. Toro Salao is located in the middle of a bustling street of good restaurants and of course, Starbucks.

The staff was great, starting with Daniel that was so courteous to us even when we were just walking by, undecided on where to eat. He was equally helpful as we returned to make Toro our stop for the evening and made us feel right at home. Our server Nicole was also very attentive and quickly took our drink orders. Having had a "fun" day already in the land of Bacardi, I opted for a regular coke as the walk back was still significant.

The food choices were obviously tapas and we ordered one of our favourite tapas, "Batatas Bravas". We also ordered "Croquetas de Bacalao" and we were sold on the night's special, "Coca Mediterranea" that sounded very appealing from Nicole's description. Coca is in actuality a Spanish Pastry with a variety of toppings but the final results look a lot like a pizza. The batatas bravas were delicious...the Aioli de chorizo  sauce although different than the more traditional paprika based sauce, was excellent in its own right.

The croquetas de bacalao is something I'm very familiar with and part of my Portuguese heritage cuisine. This one was lightly battered on the outside, full of flavour on the inside and the aioli de limon was a perfect pairing for it.
The Coca Mediterranea was quite the highlight. The portion was very generous, the toppings were fresh and flavourful from the chorizo, red onion, feta cheese to the shrimp and humus.

We got a chance to speak to the long time manager of this restaurant, Violeta and it was easy to see that her passion for food and this restaurant were quite high. She was a delightful addition to our night. The Espresso Cheesecake dessert she offered us was divine to say the least, and completed our night perfectly.

The Good: Great spot with tasty tapas, amazing atmosphere and excellent staff.
The Bad: No bad at all, maybe just my usual line of...wish it was closer to my house...In Canada.
The Verdict: This restaurant is a must try when in Old San Juan, it has everything to make your food experience a great one. Be sure to find them among all the other restaurants along the way, It's well worth it. 

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