El Toro Blanco- No Bull

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Pants at a Glance
  • scene: Downtown slick Mexican space, with just enough energy to pass as personality
  • sip: Tequila, in any form
  • savor: Take your shot...Guac, Cheese Crisp
  • sit: So typical, but with some girlfriends who like drink tequila
  • spend: $$
  • address: 257 Sixth Avenue (between Houston and Downing)
  • phone number: (212) 645 0193
  • website: www.eltoroblanconyc.com

El Toro Blanco has an amazing menu. Everything on it sounds delicious and fresh, inventive and authentic. This can not be denied. My excitement for my meal El Toro Blanco manifested itself in my relentless dissecting of the online menu and the planning and re-working of my meal strategy. That menu- so many choices! However would I eat it all?

The bottom line is that I had a great time at El Toro Blanco- the music was hip, the room was aglow, and the drinks were strong. It wasn’t until a few hours after the meal that I started to consider that although the overall evening was a roaring success, the food might not have been anything special. The vibe at El Toro Blanco struck me as slightly similiar to Burger and Barrel- it is a large space done in dark colors and some shiny tiles, not overtly conveying any particular type of cuisine. The two top tables are all banquet style, and a little tight. (Why do girls always play chicken with their handbags on the banquette? Its like they see another girl coming and try to take up as much space as possible as they watch the approaching female gingerly try to squeeze in between tables and reach the banquette without catching on fire from the tabletop candles, then play dumb and pretend to move their stuff and say “sorry”? Just move your shit! Unless you have an alligator Birkin your handbag can go on the floor, trust me). Anyway, as is the norm now, we started with some “made to order” guacamole at our selected heat level “medium”, and that arrived with crisp tortilla chips and a trio of ETB salsas. Guac was good, a little too much onion for me, and the salsas were alright- Sister was taken with the middle green salsa, and I found the pic de gallo to have a little too much smoke to pull off its usually refreshing role in Mexican food. Next we ordered the Sonoran cheese crisp, described as an “open face quesadilla” (read: cheesey) and when it came it looked like a glorious mexican pizza, all crispy and cheesy and beautiful. This dish struck me as something dreamed up by a stoner in a dorm room more than an experienced chef trying to make sophisiticated Mexican food. I mean, let’s be clear, Stoner Food is yummy in all the wrongest ways, and I had to stop myself from devouring this whole thing.

Next we had the tacos Escuela Vieja (old school), which means ground beef, hard shell taco, cheese, lettuce pico (like my mama used to make) and the chicken enchiladas. The enchiladas were huge; the tacos were not. They were little hors d’oevres tacos, but full of flavor and nostalgia that made me smile, even if they beef was a little dry and underspiced. The enchiladas were a green gooey mess, and for some reason I thought the chicken tasted like fish. I don’t know why, my pallette might have been messed up from some spices; it was good but a little uniform in texture, despite the crunch provding promise of radishes. The corn, now a favorite of Mexican restaurants in NYC, was cheesy and a little smokey, thankfully shaved off of the cob. The black bean side improved after I dumped some salsa into them to give them some flavor, and the result was pleasant and reminiscent of black bean soup.

Did I mention that we were on tequila? I was gloriously blissed out after having two raspberry tequila sangrias, another invention possibly from the mind of stoners but amazing in all the best ways. (Tequila! IN the red wine! ) Sister opted for a spicy tequila drink and floated home in a state of cloudy fullness. Will I go back to El Toro Blanco? Yes. Is there better hip Mexican food in NYC? Yes. Is there a better sounding menu? I dare to say no…

Not a pizza...

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