The Black Toro, Glen Waverley

The Black Toro is a Mexican/Spanish restaurant in Glen Waverley, along the Kingsway strip near Mocha Jo's. I decided to visit this restaurant after hearing quite a few good reviews about it and seeing it pop up on Urbanspoon quite recently, and was extremely happy with my experience there.

Originally we were going to go on a weekday, but they only had reservations for 6pm or 8:30pm, and this didn't quite suit us, so we ended up going on a Saturday at 6pm. As the restaurant is quite popular, you'd most likely have to book in advance to get a table. We booked a day or two before, and only managed to get an outside table for the five of us, as the inside tables were already booked. In hindsight however, it was probably better that we were seated outside, as because it's so packed with people, it can be a little hard to hear each other over the conversation of everyone else without raising your voices. Even though we were seated outside, there was shade/covering so that despite it raining that day, we didn't really feel it, and they also had the heating on so it was still quite warm. When the rain did become heavier and was coming down on us slightly, the staff quickly shifted all the outside tables towards the right, so that we didn't get wet. Service overall was really great; the food came in a timely manner and the staff member who served us on the night, Michael, was really knowledgeable about the dishes. I was impressed by how much knowledge the staff knew of not just the dishes, but the ingredients and methods used in making the dishes, and it definitely made our experience even more enjoyable.

Most of the dishes at The Black Toro are designed to be shared, so we went with five entrees, one main and two desserts to share between five of us. Despite most of the entree/starter dishes only stating they came in portions of 2, we were told that they could cater for us and have five servings of each dish, which I thought was a thoughtful gesture. The entrees we decided on were the Potato and Chorizo Croquettes ($4 each), the Grilled Corn on the Cob ($4.50 each), a Mezcal cured salmon dish ($17), lamb tacos ($14 for two) and the spicy pulled pork taco ($6 each). For main, we ordered the slow cooked lamb shoulder with sauces and sides ($65; the portion of lamb was big enough for five of us, so this was the only one we ordered), and for dessert, we went with the Deconstructured Peanut Butter Cheesecake ($14) and the Mandarin Platter ($14).

The potato and chorizo croquettes were served with manchego foam, and quite strong in flavour, though bordering on being quite salty because of the chorizo. You could taste the chorizo flavour distinctively, and the potato mash had a good smooth consistency. The thin layer of batter was lovely and crispy, though the manchego foam (manchego is a type of Spanish cheese) didn't actually have much flavour.

The grilled corn was served with a chipotle mayo and toasted masa, which our staff member explained to us was corn dough that had been reduced into a powder and toasted over a period of time. This was probably my favourite entree dish, as there was a really good combination of flavours, from the natural sweetness of the juicy corn mixed with the slightly chargrilled taste, together with the spicy chipotle sauce and a subtle sour taste from the lime wedge. The toasted masa added texture to the dish, with the fine grains of powder contrasting well with the smoothness of the corn, and for something that was only a side element of the dish, had a lot of effort put into preparing. This dish can be a bit messy to eat though, you'd either have to pick up the whole thing or slice the corn off the cob.

The Mezcal cured salmon dish came with an avocado puree, smashed coriander meringue and salmon roe. The salmon itself was lovely and soft, with heaps of flavour from being cured in Mezcal (a Mexican distilled alcoholic beverage). My friend really liked the coriander meringue, and I thought it went well with the fish for added flavour and texture as well, even though I am not a huge fan of coriander myself.

The lamb tacos were made from soft tacos with lamb belly, achiote and pickled vegetables. The ratio of lamb to taco was just perfect so that the taco wrapped around all the elements without anything falling out easily, and the lamb itself was really flavoursome and tender, and easy to eat. The soft taco itself also had a nice subtle corn/corn chip taste to it, and wasn't just floury like a lot of tacos you find, which made it more enjoyable.

The pulled pork tacos also came with shredded cabbage, sour cream and lime, and was quite spicy to eat. We all thought there was probably too much of everything to fit nicely into the taco, as bits of the pork and shredded cabbage fell out quite easily and became messy to eat; the taco collapsed under the weight of all the elements. It would've been nice to perhaps have more yoghurt and coleslaw to help balance out the flavours of the spicy pulled pork, as this was quite a strong flavour. There was a good combination of textures in this dish, with the soft pulled pork that contrasted nicely with the crunchy shredded cabbage.

The slow cooked braised lamb shoulder comes with a range of sauces and sides as well as soft tortillas to make into tacos, and was definitely more than enough for five of us, as we had ordered quite a few entrees. The shoulder of lamb (which from memory, was 1kg in weight), was extremely soft, falling apart easily when you cut into it. There was lots of flavour to the dish, though the lamb did feel a bit dry when you had it by itself. With the rest of the sides and sauces and wrapped in the taco however, it was a delicious dish. The sauces that came with the dish included a chilli one similar to what was on the pulled pork, sour cream, and well one that I believe was chocolate chilli. Another great thing regarding service and this dish was that there was actually two plates of tortillas that came with this dish, which were still warm when bought out. They would've become soggy if we'd just left them there, so the second plate of tortillas that came with the lamb was actually bought out to us after we'd finished the first plate of tortillas, which I thought was thoughtful.

The Mandarin dessert platter consisted of mandarin done in several different ways; fresh, freeze dried, candied and as a sorbet. This was quite a refreshing dessert that went well after the heavier main course we just had, but it was quite sweet, in particular the sorbet, which felt a bit like eating orange cordial ice, in my opinion. There was a good combination of textures, from the hard candied oranges to the fresh pieces of mandarin, with the melt-in-your-mouth sorbet.

The deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake was served with chocolate ice cream and honeycomb, and was a really nice way to finish our meal. The peanut butter cheesecake quenelle was quite dense and rich in peanut butter flavour, and I couldn't really taste much of the cheesecake flavour itself. The chocolate ice cream wasn't too sweet, which complemented the heavier peanut butter cheesecake flavours well, and actually tasted a bit like milo. The honeycomb gave the dish extra crunch, as did the crunchy milo like base that the rest of the dessert was sitting on.

I really enjoyed my experience at The Black Toro and would definitely love to visit again in the future. The service was a really big plus for me, as I felt we were given good suggestions of what to order, and even during the meal, we were attended to several times, whether it be just to check if everything was to our liking, or to refill our water. Another great thing about this restaurant that my friend pointed out, was the fact that each dish had its own distinct flavours and was different, unlike some Mexican restaurants, where dishes can taste quite similar. Definitely a highly recommended restaurant!

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