El Toro Blanco has been on our secret, or not so secret if you follow us on Twitter, list of places to try before the year is over. John McDonald and Josh Capon of Lure Fishbar and Burger & Barrel have opened a new, upscale Mexican restaurant right across the street from the popular, scenery Italian restaurants Da Silvano and Bar Pitti. El Toro Blanco is actually in the same location of the late Italian restaurant that was owned by Silvano Marchetto, of Da Silvano, and his daughter Leyla. We were shocked to find that Scuderia had closed especially since we enjoyed the food much more there than at Da Silvano (we regularly went out of our way to get Scuderia’s Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu for take out, that’s how good it was). While we knew that El Toro Blanco has some great operators behind it, we were a bit confused with the location. That block has always been known as the “Da Silvano and Bar Pitti” block so to see a new comer that can draw in an equally high end crowd will be interesting to see over the next few months. Also, the restaurant is also close to Serge Becker’s Mexican restaurant La Esquina that is also known for it’s great food and even better people watching. Having two restaurants that cater to the same crowd may be problematic in the future but perhaps El Toro Blanco can benefit from La Esquina’s tough reservation policy. Also, El Toro’s outdoor seating will be a crowd pleaser in the warmer weather.
The restaurant itself is upscale but we never felt that El Toro Blanco was pretentious or was trying too hard. The deep red and blue subway tiles help give the restaurant a more casual feel while the dark woods and paneled ceiling give the space a very trendy vibe. We also enjoyed the small guacamole bar towards the front of the restaurant and the more intimate seating space located directly behind the bar. This area seems to be similar to the balcony seating area at The Lion. Those seated there can still have a great view of what is going on throughout the restaurant but ensures those sitting there a great deal of privacy. The menu is split up into different parts such as Tacos, Empanadas, Ceviches and Entrees. While this may seem a bit strange, ordering at Mexican restaurants can be difficult due to our allergy to nuts and peanuts. However, the staff took the time to guide us through the menu to make sure we could try a bit of everything while still ordering nut/peanut free food. While this is not to say the service at La Esquina doesn’t take food allergies seriously, we just felt a little more attention was given by the staff at El Toro Blanco.
The food at El Toro Blanco was actually a lot better than we expected. With most trendy restaurants, we find that the scene seems like much more of a priority to the staff than the food resulting in a meal with great people watching but mediocre food. This is not the case at El Toro Blanco. The menu consists of Mexican street food that is tweaked and given a more modern spin while still remaining authentic to its roots. The Made to Order guacamole was one of the best guacamole’s we’ve had in the city. The Elote Verde (corn Tamale), which was recommended to us by our server, was shockingly good. The ingredients were all fresh, which was important since this was a very simple dish. The thicker texture of the cornmeal paired well with the spicy flavors of the fresh salsa so that the dish was never bland or overly spicy.
The Cabrito taco was also very good. The slow roasted goat was very moist but the sauce, while packing a lot of flavor into the small tacos, was a bit oily and greasy. However, these tacos tasted so good that we’ll let that minor flaw slide. However, the Tinga de Pollo was simply “okay”. While the menu did indicate this, the chicken was basically covered in barbecue sauce, put on a taco and then was topped with an avocado slice. The flavors strongly resembled something you would find at an American barbecue restaurant such as Hill Country. While it was more bizarre than anything else to have such American flavors in a Mexican dish, perhaps we’ll be sampling one of the other tacos on our next visit.
Despite the “out of the way” location, we enjoyed El Toro Blanco very much. The food is quite good and relatively inexpensive when compared to its competition (Dos Caminos and La Esquina). It’s even worth it to pop by for a cocktail and an order of guacamole but, if you have the time, we really suggest you sample some of the other dishes on the menu as well. The cooking is authentic, with a modern twist of course, and the staff gives each table their full attention. A meal for one can easily cost under $30 if you know how to order (ours was about $25 a person after tax and tip) and the portions are generous. We recommend El Toro Blanco to anyone in the area wanting great Mexican food and especially to those having trouble getting a reservation at La Esquina. Both places serve excellent food and have the same great people watching.
Also, just as an afterthought, El Toro Blanco can you please get an actual website rather than your current Tumblr page. While Tumblr is an excellent platform for blogging, it looks really unprofessional as an actual restaurant page especially with the “Follow, Dashboard” icons at the top. We just wish your webpage could match the chic and beautiful decor of your restaurant.
El Toro Blanco
257 Sixth Ave.
New York, NY 10014