Lately, there seems to be an increased adoption by Torontonians of tapas-inspired restaurants. The old days of “all you can eat” and even American super-sized meals seem to be in a downward trend. With places like Patria opening up, Guu leading the pack in the Asian tapas-style adoption and even good ol’ favourites like Torito Tapas Bar announcing their new opening of Carmen, we are bound to travel back in time to a food era when quality superseded quantity and meals were a 3 to 4 hour ordeal.
So I figured, why not visit one of the oldest restaurants in Toronto that’s been leading the trend since 2006?
Torito is a small place located in the Kensignton market area. Easy to spot with their huge red bull sign at the entrance. Their food roots from Spain but brings a modern twist using local flavours. The menu features close to 25 tapas and their atmosphere though trendy is totally unpretentious.
A crowd-favourite tapa that was ordered twice during our visit is their famous Avocado Fries with Roasted Tomato Salsa. These are basically lightly-breaded avocado strips that have been deep-fried to perfection and are ready for dipping pleasure on a house-made tomato sauce which has a nice kick to it.
Their Patatas Bravas covered in Aioli are probably one of the best executions I have had of this tapa. In Spain, this tapa is a staple and a crowd-pleaser. In the case of Torito, their potatoes are cooked to a soft inside with a crunchy outer-shell and light seasoning. The Aoili adds good flavour notes to the dish, but once again it does not overpower it.
When it comes to protein, and especially pork, the Spanish know how to make a Chorizo taste great. The Grilled Spanish Chorizo featured in Torito’s menu has that perfect level of spiciness with beautiful grill marks and a non-chewy texture. A home-run for Chef Valenzuela.
My second favourite tapa from the menu is the Rossejat. A paella-style pasta served with shrimp and drizzled with the same aioli from the Patatas Bravas. The thin noodles are topped with green peas and cilantro, giving a lot of body to the dish yet keeping it light with the greens addition.
Dessert, like any traditional Spanish restaurant, always features our beloved Churros. At Torito these are served with a small covering of dusting sugar and dulce de leche. Though I would have liked a bit more of the dulce de leche, I was happy to see a twist on plating and found the treats to be fresh and moist, with a nice bite to them and good sweet-to-dough balance.
Y por supuesto, a Spanish restaurant and night are never complete without litres (note the plural here) of Sangria. I think we went through 4 of these that night and we were about to order a fifth as the Sangria was not overly sweet or overpowered the lovely wine taste. Our night was so great that we stayed at the restaurant until close, just like the Spaniards do.
So restaurant owners, take note, customers will no longer sacrifice a meal with a 1.5hr limit on tables, they will flock to restaurants where the feeling of a non-rushed quality meal resonates and makes them feel just at home. In my case, this is how I plan to enjoy my food experiences.
Until next time Foodies!
Venue: Torito Tapas Bar
Specialty: Spanish Tapas
Location: 276 Augusta Avenue (Kensinton Market), Toronto, Ontario
Menu items: Avocado Fries, Patatas Bravas, Grilled Spanish Chorizo, Rossejat & Churros accompanied with Sangria