I swear that half of my friends were born in the last week of February. It is already a short month, and then I typically have all these birthday activities packed into that one week. That means I get in a ton of socializing, food, and booze into my schedule.
My friend Andrew (not Andrew of the Hungry Trio…confusing I know) chose to have his birthday brunch at Toro Toro. It was a fine choice, I must say. You can check out the fantastic menu here. I had been wanting to go here since I had brunch next door a couple months ago. I selfishly was thrilled with his pick.
Toro Toro is a Richard Sandoval restaurant focused on South American food. Sandoval is well-known in DC for his restaurants, especially El Centro D.F. (a personal favorite). I didn’t even know this was a Richard Sandoval restaurant until I was writing this post. It does make sense though, as there was something rather familiar in this dining experience.
For $39, you get access to Toro Toro’s bottomless brunch with food and drinks. The drink options were more extensive than your typical bottomless brunch. Of course, they offer your standard OJ mimosa, but they also have mango, blood orange, and passion fruit flavors. Plus, they have Bloody Marys, Bloody Marias, Micheladas, margaritas, and caipirinhas. I stuck mostly with the passion fruit mimosas, but I had a couple blood orange ones, as well.
The passion fruit mimosas were dangerously good, maybe a little too good. They actually got me in a bit of trouble. After a long day of traveling the day before plus the bottomless mismosas, I spaced out in the Uber on the way home and left my phone in the car. Fortunately, I had a very sweet driver who helped me get my phone back, but it was a stressful experience for me. I realized how reliant I am on my phone.
I can’t say that I regretted all those mimosas though. I had an amazing time with my friends, and the food was superb. We had a group of about 15 (give or take). With a group that size, it is best to not even try to order but let the waiters just bring you food. It takes the work out of ordering, and you can focus on eating and drinking.
We started with a few small plates. Toro Toro has two types of guacamole: traditional and bacon with queso fresco. I was perplexed by the bacon guacamole. I typically love the combination of bacon and avocados, as those are two of my favorite sandwich add-ons. I just didn’t quite understand it in guacamole. It was an odd combination of textures and flavors. We also had some delicious grilled chorizo with chimichurri. Chorizo holds a special place in my heart, and this chorizo was what my dreams are made of.
Then, we had a spicy and sweet contrast. On the spicier side, we had the chicken and waffles: a piece of fried chicken with chipotle agave honey over a corn waffle topped with pickled chiles. We also had some french toast with dulce de leche, crispy bacon, and caramelized apples. The French toast was one of my favorite dishes of the brunch. I am craving some of those caramelized apples and dulce de leche. I may have some plans for a new brunch dish of my own inspired by this French toast.
Now onto two of my favorite things: plantains and bacon. I can devour some fried sweet plantains like none other. Plus, who doesn’t love bacon…especially coated in chipotle agave honey and spiced sugar.
Brunch isn’t brunch without eggs. One of my all-time favorite brunch dishes is chilaquiles: a bed of black bean puree topped with tortilla chips smothered in salsa roja and sprinkled with pico de gallo, pickled onions, and finished off with a fried egg. I sometimes have dreams of chilaquiles in all its crunchy and saucy glory. We can’t forget about huevos rancheros. Served over a crispy tortilla, this dish has black beans, potatoes, salsa roja, avocado, and chorizo topped with a fried sunny side up egg. They are as picturesque as they are pretty.
We were also served two precious South American treats. The first was the braised pork short rib arepa with hoisin sauce, guacamole, serrano peppers, and crema fresca. These were not traditional Venezuelan arepas like I have come to know, but they were delicious. They tasted great alongside the lomo saltado con huevo, a Peruvian specialty. Lomo saltado is typically served with white rice and not an egg, but this dish of thin slices of beef filet with stir-fry vegetables and fries was another dreamy dish to enjoy.
The next beautiful sight to graze our table was the empanadas de choclo and pork belly benefit. To be honest, the empanadas were not that great. I typically love empanadas. I became obsessed with them when I was studying in Argentina. I just didn’t like these. I am not a fan of food that is starch-filled starch, like potato tacos or corn empanadas. The empanada dough had a good crust, but the filling did not impress me. What did impress me was the pork belly benedict over another another arepa. I probably would have enjoyed this poached egg dish had I not been so stuffed by the time they brought out this dish. This starch heavy meal was knocking me out.
At this point, we were stuffed full of so much good food. It is always hard to imagine putting any more food into our bodies, but somehow when they bring out the sweets, everything changes. I guess I really do have a dessert stomach, especially when tres leches cake and churros are on the table. Tres leches cake was the first cake I ever learned how to make as an adolescence. I would bring it in for my high school classes. I have never made it with marshmallow fluff for icing, but it was a delicious addition. The brunch-ended churros are normally my most satisfying part of my meal. However, these churros were piped too thick. They were cooked on the outside but a little underdone on the inside. I like my churros crisp and sweet. The sauce was on point though.
My overall take of Toro Toro is that I would go back to Toro Toro. The food was great for the most part, and I loved the drinks. I am a huge lover of Latin American food, and these fusion dishes were not a disappointment. I had some drunken laughs with my friends and some memories that I will take with me after I leave DC. Be on the lookout for more DC restaurant adventures, as I prepare for my departure from this wonderful city.