Toro Toro, the first restaurant to open in Grosvenor House's Tower Two, is rather striking to look at. It occupies a long, large space, stretched out over two floors, with an open kitchen, a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, oversized vases and several large sculptures, all bathed in amber hues thanks to the subtle lighting and flickering candles.
The food is described as pan-Latin, with a blend of South and Central American flavours and ingredients. A number of small "tapas style" dishes are listed under the titles "from the land", "from the sea" and "from the garden" and there is also a separate churrasco and grill section with larger, more expensive offerings. Everything on the menu is intended to be shared.
Prices for the smaller dishes range from Dh70 for salads, vegetables and soups to Dh115 for some of the meat and fish-based options. If you were to work out an average, I'd say that each cost around Dh85, which is worth bearing in mind when ordering: with sharing plates it is easy to order with abandon and then get a shock when the bill arrives. With our waiter's guidance, we chose three of the smaller dishes to start and then opted to split a T-bone steak.
Our tasting plates proved to be something of a mixed bag. The crispy calamari wasn't quite as crisp as it should have been and had a slightly floury aftertaste, but the chilli-soused cabbage accompaniment was very nice – fresh, crunchy and fiery.
A serving of beef chorizo empanadas was fine: the pastry was golden brown and not too thick, but we both found the ground meat filling a little jejune. The favourite by far was a little plate of cachapas (corn pancakes), stuffed with succulent pieces of shredded duck and mild, melted halloumi and accompanied by a pleasant sticky-sweet tomato jam.
There were a couple of issues with the steak main course. We were told that it came with a side order of fries, which stopped us from ordering more. When the steak arrived, the meat was served on top of a scattering of sliced potato quarters, which were soft with meat juices. This was fine, but they certainly weren't fries and there wasn't really enough for two.
I had also ordered a side of chilli and garlic broccolini (a long-stemmed hybrid of broccoli and kale) to go with the meat because I thought we needed some sort of greenery/vegetables. When the steak arrived, so did a fairly sizeable lettuce, corn and tomato salad. If this had been mentioned when we asked what the steak was served with, I wouldn't have felt it necessary to order the broccolini (Dh35).
Rather than being presented whole, the steak had been carved into chunks for us, which I presume is intended to help facilitate sharing. The meat was flavoursome, but we asked for it to be served medium rare and while some pieces were, others veered very much towards medium/well-done territory, which was a shame.
The dessert list at Toro Toro was somewhat unimaginative. Three out of the six options were some sort of cake (milk, date or chocolate). The others were fresh fruit and the two we chose – lemon panna cotta and seasonal sorbets. Both were executed correctly, but neither the flavour nor the presentation ventured beyond.
In short, barring the cuisson of the steak, the food all fit the bill. However, given that it is quite easy to rack up a rather large bill at Toro Toro, I wonder how many people would feel compelled to return.
A meal for two at Toro Toro, Grosvenor House Dubai costs Dh842, including service. For reservations call 04 399 8888. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito