When In Manila and you’re jaded of eating the usual foods, there’s an oasis of Japanese and Mexican cuisine waiting for your hungry palate, called TORO.
Two brothers namely Vinnie and Nikhiel Genomal who had both great passion for phenomenal foods decided to share their experiences with the world. Though both of them were raised in the Philippines, that did not stop them from going around the world in order to search for glorious food. Aside from their palate being their ultimate motivator, it’s their actual love for eating that brought about this quest. Vinnie adores Mexican foods, while brother Nikh is a Japanese cuisine lover. Together with their brilliant minds and meticulous tastes, TORO was born.
Why TORO? They acquired it from a Japanese word representing a specific prime cut of tuna (tuna belly in particular). Toro is associated with the bullfighting culture which is comprised mainly of the so-called Tex-Mex (Texan and Mexican) civilization. It typifies strength and absolute resonance – as it was inculcated in the flavours’ boldness of the cuisines being offered. This newcomer to the increasingly trendy hub that is Bonifacio Global City offers some great, traditional tapas and mains as well. The menu at this cool spot is almost entirely endless, and with some awesome sangria and a fun vibe, it’s also a lively spot.
“Flavours from Okinawa to El Paso” says Vinnie when I asked him how to describe TORO. “We are not a fusion restaurant. To describe the cuisine – we are more on Japanese infused with Mexican,” he added. Most of their dishes are 60-70% spicy. In here they practice the concept of acquiring the spices from Mexico and South America and incorporating them to traditional Japanese afterwards. “Japanese food is minimalistic, subtle, and simple. Mexican food is complex”, Vinnie says. They wanted their customers to achieve the desired flavours to be “dancing in their mouths”. With that they let them be intrigued with what they will get from TORO. Mixing the flavours of the complexity delivers the uniqueness of their dishes. “If you do anything with passion, you’ll surely succeed,” Vinnie smiles.
I was surprised that though Vinnie doesn’t have any solid culinary experience up in his sleeves, his ultimate love for eating has calibrated his knowledge of being an entrepreneur and an effective restaurateur of fine dining. He was very light to talk with, very open to feedback of all sorts. As of to date, he also has a Japanese consultant to further improve on his business.
First thing I’ve noticed is the friendly park attendant as parking area may be too distant for some. They offer Free Valet Parking, no worries! By the entrance, I was welcomed by a smiling, good looking hostess. In fact, everyone is.
Toro is charming both inside and outside. With Japanese and Mexican-inspired embellishments, painted walls and the over-all interior seemed to transcend you into another place. This is a very smart but relaxed restaurant. Very clean and minimalist as well. The Matador wall with the bull fight is funky yet stylish. Topped off with their main attraction of a lovely mural of Geisha lips as their wall decor.
Aside from the welcoming staff, they always checked on us often and were quick to serve us with a smile. Vinnie says he is at the restaurant every day. It seems to me that he really is serious about his restaurant. Very hands on, isn’t that commendable? He pays attention for food, cleanliness and quality of employees. This place is well managed.
I noticed that there is no soy sauce and wasabi in sight. “I do not purposely display them,” Vinnie says. This is to let the customers define the flavour on their own; and not be dependent on the sauce. He said that the Volcano Roll is the perfect sample.
Volcano Roll (Php390++), fresh salmon and jalapeno bits slathered in a spicy mayo sauce, deep fried in tempura batter. This is not your average maki as Vinnie has to stress out that this is their best seller. Certainly one dish that stands for the Japanese elements but at the same time represents the Mexican flavours. He said he altered the level of spice just a little bit as most customers said that it was too spicy. He was absolutely right, maki was tasty and no need for soy sauce nor wasabi. A signature dish that is worth repeated return trips.
East Meets West Salad (Php290++) composed of organic greens, cherry tomato, daikon cress, shitake and candied walnuts. The sesame dressing was indeed a tangy addition to this. Walnuts and sugar is what pretty much you need to make candied walnuts but this one was made in which you make a standard salad turn out into something special.
Nori-Chos (Php260++) Oh how do I love thee Mister Nori-chos? Their crispy nori-chos is topped with sweet spicy glazed ahi tuna, signature sauce and jalapeno. This is their most recommended tapas. As meant to be bite-sized, told Vinnie that it seemed still big for its serving. He noted and said will improve on that. Aside from that, their nori-chos were memorable. Makes me want to grab a bottle of beer and chillax! Tasty tapas to the core that it has won me over.
Age Dashi Tofu (Php380++), deep fried tofu, glazed with sweet soy, enoki mushrooms, spring onions and bonito flakes. Huge serving! Good news for vegetarian out there. Gotta have a taste of this classic tofu- smooth and soft! The presentation is commendable and that sweet soy glaze won’t fail you. A bit hefty for its price though, but considering the quality of the tofu they serve, don’t give this a miss. Serene tofu goodness awaits you.
Ebi Tempura Tartare (Php430++), A set of tempura battered shrimp in two variants: green and yellow sweet sauce. The crunchy and crispness of the tempura batter makes the shrimps a delight to eat and the tartare sauce gives it that ‘just right’ tang needed to make your mouth water for more. Small shrimp bites smothered in their green and yellow sauce were hefty enough to make a meal out of many.
Spicy Beef Fire Bowl (Php390++), stir fried beef on a bed of steamed rice, oshinko, spring onions and bean sprouts. I told Vinnie the beef somehow camouflage as a chilli con carne and he said,”Oh yeah huh, I did not think of that”. This may appeal spicy to some that will make them call a fire-fighter, but do note that they are able to customize their dishes according to your taste. I dig spicy foods so that wasn’t a problem for me. The beef seemed to melt in my mouth when I tasted this. Also told Vinnie he can add a dash of colour to it, like steamed veggies on top to make it more presentable and more appetizing.
We were served with the TORO Sangria to end up our meal. Lightly sweetened, still flavourful and you can barely taste the alcohol content, just lovely. Oranges and lemons are this drink’s typical guests and Vinnie asked me what other fruits would be perfect to mix with it? Told him to try anything with the berry family and he will never go wrong. Ladies just love anything strawberry and the like.
Still got room for desserts? By all means yes! Vinnie just cannot be stopped from being innovative doesn’t he? He made us taste what he called his Dessert Shots. I directly asked him where he got this concept. He just nonchalantly said, “Just popped in my mind”. One day he wanted to do a Chocolate Cake shot, hence this item. How cool is that?
Snicker Doodle (Php200++), Irish cream, butterscotch schnapps and tequila. Dessert shots is an interesting concept. I told him he can even make his own Dessert Shots Parlour and it will be a hit in the market, something new eh? The alcohol kick of this one is just the average, or perhaps I am just used to drinking tequila myself. Aside from the fancy names i.e. Strawberry Cheesecake shot, Butter Finger, one can enjoy both desserts and liquor in one, awesome creations!
Am I glad I had the Turtle Pie (Php280++) to feast on the last. Why? By far the best Turtle Pie I have ever tasted, no joke. Chocolate chips, chopped almond filling under thick Oreo crust top with caramel sauce. Don’t let that piece of ordinary triangle fool you, this is one dessert that will make you want to lick your plate. The more it melts, the better it gets!
I actually let it melt and then somehow it reminded me that it resembles an Oreo Choco Chip Milk Shake too! Haven indeed!
REASON TO GO
If I have to define TORO my own way? Indeed very unassuming from the outside, but a real treat on the inside. Toro is the perfect spot to sample and share Japanese and Mexican food with friends When In Manila. Enter this TORO arena for that excellent and inventive food place with solid service in hand.
Sample the best of TORO at Lunch with their special Php450++ Executive Lunch Menu. A 3-course meal – your choice of salad, maki, main dish or any sandwich. Be sure to taste their amazing cocktails available all day and at 50% off on weekdays after 10pm.
Toro Restaurant and Bar
Unit 6, G/F One McKinley Place, 26th cor. 4th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
For Reservations, Takeout & Delivery visit: