My dinner at Toro started out on a dubious note. While my friends and I were perusing the vast menu, our table's bottle of soy sauce had quietly overturned.
By the time we noticed the spill, a salty lake had formed at our feet, so we stood up and alerted our waiter. His blank gaze was telling me either he thought we were complete klutzes or he was not sure what to do. So I suggested we move to another table, and he reluctantly obliged.
Once settled at our clean table, we eventually ordered, and I had a chance to glance around. The dimly lit restaurant exudes a sleek and welcoming feel, with plenty of tables lining the street-facing wall. The entrance has a small bar that seemed predictably quiet on this Tuesday evening. The same area serves as the takeout counter, which was bustling.
The centerpiece of Toro is its sushi bar. Chefs work behind a display of fresh fish, while behind them stands a wall glistening under a thin sheet of circulating water. There are seats at the sushi bar, where we saw a couple of diners catching a late meal.
Having only ordered takeout here before, I was not expecting the beautiful plates that arrived at our table. First was the Treasure Island Salad ($8.95), which arrived with bright orange roe atop tasty cucumber, seaweed and raw fish drizzled with a spicy house dressing. Next was the Crab Rangoon ($5.95). I had never tried these before and found them lacking in crab taste.
Each dish was arranged and garnished with such care and attention to detail that I almost felt bad eating the food; a feeling that quickly faded with the first bite of my appetizer special, Tempura Shrimp ($7.95) glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce. These shrimp were just the right size and were served in an edible bowl. This was the first dish that provoked food envy.
The next was the Mango Stir Fried Chicken ($12.95), slices of chicken with fresh mango, asparagus and snow peas served steaming hot in two mango halves. This entrée had a light sauce and was a nice contrast to the very spicy and flavorful Thai Coconut Curry Beef ($11.95).
Other entrées included Green Jade with Shrimp and Chicken ($15.95) and the Flagpole Roll ($13.95). The chicken and shrimp dish was our least favorite with the chicken, shrimp and vegetables tasting like traditional Chinese takeout. The Flag Pole Roll looked stunning and seemed to please the sushi fans at the table with its Cajun tuna, asparagus, yellowtail, salmon, eel and salmon roe.
Satisfied from our many different plates, we said good night to our waiter, who warmed up considerably when he brought the check, and went home content with our leftovers.
Toro serves beautifully prepared and imaginative food that is somewhat lost on takeout. The service is prompt if not overtly friendly, and the atmosphere is sophisticated yet casual, a place to enjoy a romantic dinner or a night out with friends.
If you have the time to appreciate the art of Asian food and presentation, get a table or pull up a stool at the sushi bar. And watch out for that soy sauce.