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Restaurant Wed Mar 21 2007
I went to Del Toro with my pals Laura and Satya to cover the food before they closed last Sunday. I felt like I couldn't stop getting a fix from the combined pleasures of this restaurant - the food's tantalizing mouthfeel, the space's romantically inspirational combination of deep warm textures and colors in low light aside clean lines and smooth surfaces. So I went again later that week with my pal Lena. Both times, I made sure to also cover a couple glasses from their wine selection. The first time, a velvety 2000 Condado de Haza Tempranillo Reserva left my mouth feeling soft like it does after good dark chocolate. On the second trip, their quite soft blend of syrah, grenache and carignan by Can Blau relaxed me. Del Toro's wine selection was just as fun as their food.
"I'm in love with these," Lena told me as we ate the "crispy fried" chickpeas with "citrus and chilies". They made them special, vegan, without the buttermilk. We're going to have to figure out how to make these, perhaps with a pesto or marinara to drizzle over them as Lena suggested. The chickpeas' batter pleasantly reminded me of that of fried chicken. I've been eating veg for years, but I can appreciate a good batter. A "traditional," as they said, Catalan starter kicked off dinner automatically without the asking: good bread with garlic, then tomato, to rub all over it, plus thick granules of sea salt and olive oil for the sprinkling - all in a lovely do-it-yourself style box. Both trips required the "patatas bravas," cylinders of tender potatoes fried crispy with a well of savory warm tomato sauce that bursts into your mouth when one takes one in all at once - minus the aioli to make them vegan. Lena "could live on these." The "escalivada," or "Catalan grilled vegetable salad" was a marvelous tangle of red peppers and zucchini shavings with "tomato confit" and "baby greens" in black olive oil and overall a nice hint of char that reminds me of eating street vendor corn cooked right on the coals in India. The roasted beets in an "anise vinaigrette" were the smoothest beets I remember tasting, and very tender to boot. Laura held our table's candle to brighten them up for a photo. I didn't need anymore food, so perhaps it was good that the second time they were out of the nicely caramelized Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts. I still had tender mushrooms and truffle oil on crispy bread slices coming.
Afterwards, curiosity got Lena and I asking our server about the "Spanish French toast" they had for brunch. Apparently, "Spanish" indicates that the batter includes a bit of wine, and it's all topped with caramelized nuts. It sounds brilliant to me. This has gone on my list of breakfasts to make myself. Perhaps I'll try making the caramelized rice pudding that I heard they did, too. Then, maybe I won't miss Del Toro so much.