It's Thursday night and I secured a reservation for 4 at the new Mexican hotspot El Toro Blanco. It's across the street from Da Silvano, in a space that I know I have been to before. You can't miss the red sign above the door, and the loud packed crowded trying to get inside. It's smallish and cozy, with a huge swordfish hanging on the wall, and a guacamole bar when you walk in.
This was going to be fun....
I found El Toro Blanco to be somewhat of a mixed bag. There was a lot of good, and there was also some not so good. Still a relatively new spot though, and you could tell that they were trying.I kept trying to remind myself of this as we preceded to wait a full 45 minutes at the packed bar. Not fun, especially in such a crowded space where there really is nowhere to put yourself.
On the bright side, the place was pumping. Lot of young, hip, people wanting to try the new IT spot. We ordered a round of margaritas (I had the El Toro), and started to warm up a little. In walks the (hot) Ed Burns, who gets escorted up to the mezzanine section.
Once we got to our table, the service was impeccable and they were really quick to take our order and bring over the guacamole and chips. Yum! The chips were warm and crispy but not too oily, and the guacamole was delicious and came with 3 dipping sauces. We also loved the Green Chile Queso Fundido (basically a mexican cheese fondue) with warm flour tortillas.
Next came the Tuna Ceviche with soy, lime, cucumber, avocado and cilantro. I liked it, I thought it was fresh and had a nice kick. The Snapper Ceviche with tomato, lime, cilantro, avocado and jalapeño was also good.
So far, the food had been excellent. Unfortunately though, the next couple of items were misses. The fresh corn Elote Verde Tamale was mushy and not very tasty. The Chopped Salad which looked delicious and refreshing was severely lacking acid, and needed a heavy does of some vinegar and lemon.
We also got the Sonoran Cheese Crisp ------>
an open faced quesadilla with cheese, poblano rajas, and roasted tomatoes. Another just ok dish.
Embarassingly, my friend went on to divulge to the waitress the reason I was photographing every bite was because I write for a "famous" restaurant blog, and the next thing I knew out came chef Josh Capon, sombrero in hand, ready for his photo op. He was nice, and you could tell was working his ass off to get this place to where it needs to be.
More food. Next came the Seared Tuna Tacos, and Crispy Cod Tacos. They were both ok, but they didn't wow anyone at the table. They were good, I think the cod better than the tuna, they were just not anything to write home about. For the main we got pan roasted Gulf Snapper, with tomato, olives, capers, oregano and pickled jalapeños. Good solid fish, fresh and tasty. The corn side dish was one of the better things we ate all night, and the rice and beans were also good. The plantains were a little too sweet to my liking, I would pass next time on these.
We ended the meal with the churros (YUM) and the Tres Leche Cake, also good.
Overall, I liked the place. It had a good vibe and a nice crowd, but they definitely need some time to get their act together. It's too new. Wait a few weeks, or months, then try it. There were definitely hits and misses but those also may be ironed out in time. Don't miss the guac, fondue, corn side, ceviches, and churros desert, and you won't regret it.
Neighborhood: West Village / NYU area
Good For: Fun Night Out, Hot Spot, Girl's Night
Bite Mark: *** (for now)
El Toro Blanco; 257 6th Ave between Bleecker & West Houston, 212-645-0193 www.eltoroblanco.tumblr.com