Toro Bravo is playful Spanish cuisine enriched by the bounty of the Pacific Northwest

Believe it or not, there was a time when padron pepper was a bit exotic in these regions. Why is it now on half of the city’s menus? You can trace the trend to John Gorham and Toro Bravo, our Restaurant of the Year 2007. The always busy tapas joint was revolutionary a decade ago. Now, not so much, but it’s still among the best.

Related: Toro Bravo is our Restaurant of the Year 2007

The menu is organized into sections by size, starting with single bite “kisses”, like a deconstructed Spanish olive ($ 2) that exponentially increases in flavor in the mouth, and growing to more raciones. heavy. It’s playful Spanish cuisine created by the bounty of the Pacific Northwest – the grilled sweet corn ($ 7) is topped with verdant cilantro pesto, sweet and earthy duck liver mousse ($ 8) and the steak homemade smoked coppa with crispy candied potatoes, crushed olives and caramelized onions ($ 21). This coppa steak is Gorham’s own innovation and has become a local legend. It starts with an inexpensive, obscure cut otherwise known as “Mandrel Eye Roast” that is dry aged, water aged and smoked to make it tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Why isn’t it on half of the city’s menus? Because it’s much harder to make than pan-fried Spanish peppers.

Related: Toro Bravo Coppa Steak Is One of Portland’s 12 Cooking Wonders

To eat: The chef’s choice of tasting menu ($ 40 per person) is a parade of surprises.

To drink: Gin and tonic is having fun in Spain and Toro Bravo is on board with four interpretations. Try the Aviation with fennel tonic, barley, Spanish bitters and lemon ($ 12).

Most popular dish: Valencian paella with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, clams and mussels. There isn’t much more Spanish than that.

Noise level: 79/100. There are always a lot of people and the atmosphere is jovial.

Expected wait: Reservations are limited to large groups on certain days. Expect at least 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Who will you eat with: Loud party groups of 30’s and 40’s and dignified older gentlemen sitting alone at the bar with a glass of sherry.

Opening year: 2007

120 NE Russell St., 503-281-4464, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday. $ – $$$.

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