Friday brunch at Toro Toro

Review: Pan-Latin dishes at the Richard Sandoval restaurant

DETAILS: Dhs295 (soft drinks), Dhs445 (house beverages), Dhs545 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. Behind Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 811 5882).

Our first visit for dinner here was a tale of polar opposites: spectacular food and spectacularly bad service. But, we found the bar to be rather good, and are genuinely excited to try the Friday brunch. Sadly, it’s a strangely subdued affair.

This Toro Toro differs from its more meat-centric, dimly-lit cousin up the road in Dubai. Instead, it seems to be modelled along the lines of our newly-crowned Restaurant of the Year, COYA. Such comparisons, however, can prove problematic if you don’t match up favourably.

We’re one of only a few tables but the super-cool dining room has plenty of character, the eclectic Latin music is excellent and when the live band perform (for a very short set) the vibe in the room improves immeasurably.

The menu has dishes listed, but nothing about packages, prices or which drinks are available. We don’t ever really find out either.

Drinks, however, are served double-quick (the soft package includes a lovely coconut mocktail) and unexpected starters of cornbread, tortilla chips and guacamole are brought to the table sharpish. They’re all excellent. In fact, they mark the high point of the brunch.

There are three kinds of ceviche at the buffet, along with a trio of salads and a further triumvirate of tacos. While there’s not a huge choice, there’s no harm in keeping a menu focused, and they’re all good without being very exciting (the salad dressings are the highlights).

More dishes come to the table: skewers of cauliflower (tasty but cold) and chicken (very good); cachapas oozing with cheese (awesome), beef empanadas (yes please) and a big jar filled with smoke, a yellowish liquid and two cold prawns (it doesn’t really work).

The main course is a cast-iron pot with lamb chops, slices of beef tenderloin, chicken and a couple of prawns squeezed into it. It doesn’t look too appealing and we struggle to eat much (and it isn’t helped by staff coming around churrascaria-style offering to pile even more on). Sides of mashed potato and sweet potato fries go untouched.

Throughout, there’s a feeling of going through the motions. Everything seems rushed (we’re done in just over two hours), dishes are served with little ceremony and little things such as the paucity of information on the packages display a lack of care.

There are plenty of plus points here (the venue, much of the food, some staff are great) but more effort is needed.

The bottom line
Needs more focus to compete with the best.

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