Toro + Ko is the latest restaurant venture to open in Dubai’s buzzing City Walk district, with acclaimed Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette bringing their Barcelona-inspired tapas concept to the UAE, following success in global destinations such as Boston, New York and Bangkok. Toro + Ko appears to be the ideal venue for the City Walk development from Meraas Holdings, a destination with the objective of recreating the feeling of a European shopping street, via an interesting blend of street art, boutique-style shops and a number of outdoor cafes, as if transporting visitors to London, Paris or in this case, Barcelona.
Hidden in The Square (close to Lima and the recently opened Galvin), the first thing we notice as we pass between manicured hedges and into the restaurant space is the Martini Bar. It’s refreshing to see a licensed venue outside of the expected hotel circuit, especially one that takes on the feeling of a speakeasy and specialises in Martini’s (with over 55 varieties, both shaken and stirred) and gin-based botanicals. The next thing to hit us is the soundtrack, forgoing the expected flamenco or rumba-Catalana for an addictive mix of old-school funk, soul and hip-hop, perfectly in keeping with the industrial style interiors.
As bold as the music is the food, with Toro + Ko offering a selection of over 60 tapas dishes, as ambitious in their flavours as the showcase of ingredients, some of which we’ve not seen in Dubai before. These determining factors are the primary reason for excelling this establishment to the top of our list of Spanish dining destinations in the region. Have you ever eaten sea urchin? Well, our meal at Toro began with the erizos con caviar Sevruga, an interesting mix of Sevruga caviar, sea urchin and quail egg that comes presented upon a gold spoon amidst wisps of smoke and offers a delicate and creamy taste of the sea that may be too much for some, but was a standout dish for us.
In more traditional territory the Catalan tomato bread offers simplicity at its best, with the dish, which is a staple of tapas bars in Barcelona, reminding us of our travels to the coastal city earlier this summer. The same can be said for the Embutidos Y Quesos, a wooden board full of cured meats and cheeses that will surprise diners for the fact that the charcuterie served at Toro + Ko isn’t pork (although the flavour profile is VERY similar) but a cured beef relatively unknown outside of its Spanish region. It’s this strive for authenticity and sheer originality, combined with the very best in seasonal ingredients that make dining at Toro + Ko such a joy.
Our lunch involved some interesting twists as we marvelled at the Aperitivo, a salad of Manchego cheese, olives and piquillo peppers presented in two forms – traditional and the spherification – with both identical in taste. The food represents a modern interpretation of classic dishes, plated like works of art and purposely constructed to be admired and discussed. There’s an intricacy to the food that takes a dish like Patatas Bravas, which is generally a sloppy construct of cubed fried potato slathered in a fiery tomato sauce; and transforms it into stuffed cylinders delicately piped with aiolo. The Tuna Tartare meanwhile, transpires to be a sweet treat served with fresh guacamole and autumn berries that shouldn’t be missed.
One of the joys of eating tapas is the small sharing style portions offering the opportunity to try a number of dishes, meaning more room for the delightfully tender Tuetano Con Carrilleras (roasted bone marrow with citrus salad and beef marmalade served in a bone), the smoky seduction of the Pulpo (grilled octopus) and the signature Marisco Paella mixed with Boston lobster, prawns, calamari, clams and mussels. The paella is then ‘scratched’ at the table prior to serving, enabling the caramelised rice to come to the forefront of this spectacular and flavoursome dish.
When it comes to desserts, Toro + Ko can proudly claim the title of the best churros in the UAE (that we’ve had the pleasure of devouring), presented with a trio of delectable sauces for dipping – dark chocolate, raspberry, and an intriguing miso dulce de leche. The Crema Catalana may not look like much but is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
With seating for 160 people including an expansive terrace providing unrestricted views of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Toro + Ko brings something new and eclectic to the Dubai’s dining landscape and makes for an impressive new addition to the dining options at City Walk. Not to be confused with the similarly named Toro, Toro it’s exciting to find an establishment serving tapas of such high calibre in the UAE. Yes, we’ve seen tapas before but not quite like this…
This article originally appeared in the November issue of FACT Dubai..
We were invited to dine at Toro + Ko. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.