Add: 165 Penang Road, 2F of Winsland Conservation House
Price: Mains $20-$30, Appetizers $10-$20
Great for: Mexican Food, 1 for 1 ladies drinks special, Chocolate Chilli Cake, Chillout,Paella, Atmosphere Website: http://www.eltoro.com.sg/home/home.html
I have always wanted to check out the restaurants/bars in the quaint white shophouse at Penang Road that stood out in stark contrast against the new developments around it (think 313@ Somerset). The opportunity came about 3 weeks ago when I met up with a handful of my friends from UMich at El Toro Restro Bar within the Winsland Conservation House for a meal after work.
Having done my research on hungrygowhere (quoting SJ: “wah, you did your homework before coming”), I decided to give recommendations. Reviews online have nothing but praises for El Toro and I started my meal there with high expectations, which on hindsight, I shouldn’t.
Unfortunately, they ran out of the highly acclaimed Grilled Fresh Calamari on the day we were there and since we weren’t in the mood for salady appetizers, we decided to give that portion of the menu a skip (though I was really tempted to rate the Ceviche against the one I had in Peru). For the main courses, we decided to stick to what the reviews claimed was good: the Fajitas and Paella.
While waiting for the food to arrive, we munched on the complimentary nachos & salsa, which were pretty good I must say. The nachos weren’t your typical Doritos and the spices in the salsa gave a pretty good punch to the concoction. I also ordered the Mojito (they were having a 1 -1 drinks special for ladies) which wasn’t fantastic, but still pretty much decent.
El Toro’s Nacho + Salsa
After what seemed like a millennium, our main courses were finally served. The first dish (Fajitas) was an immediate disappointment. For a classy Latin restaurant selling their food at exhorbitant prices, ($26.80 for a puny chicken breast and 4 tortilla wraps?) they have failed to even learn the art of grilling their poultry well. We were all chewing on tough+overcooked meat and the marinade was definitely not substantial enough to console us from our little jaw workout.
Say NO to this Fajitas
The next dish was so-so. Or maybe, I have eaten too much Paella during those 29 days in Europe of Spring 2008 that nothing would ever come close to the authentic ones I had every day in Madrid and Barcelona. However, that being said, El Toro did a decent job for this one by using fresh seafood ingredients and the rice was sufficiently moist (though I prefer it to be drier, but was informed by Sj that this was the right consistency) and flavorful.
Paella with really fresh seafood cooked in white wine, saffron & cilantro
We decided to add one more dish (Plato Mixto
) to our meal since Sel was joining us late from work . It was an appetizer mixer filled with mini chimichangas, quesadillas, al fuego chicken wings and jalepeno poppers. (I know, you must be like…chi chi what? Please refer to the end of El Toro’s menu http://www.eltoro.com.sg/menu/menu.html
. They have a Spanish glossary there, which may help shed some light =) Definitely a unique dish this one. I especially liked the jalepno poppers! And the chimichangas & quesadillas were done much better than their cousin (Fajitas) which we were trying very hard to forget by then. Also, the chicken wings reminded me of Har Chiong Gais at your typical 煮炒 store.
I think the saving grace for the entire meal was the dessert. No doubts about that. This was one spot-on review from hungrygowhere: Chilli Chocolate Cake. I have had my fair share of molten lava cakes and chocolate cake on hot plates while i was in the U.S but this was unlike any other! If you haven’t guess by now, the chilli was KEY to the success of this cake. It gave such a surprising kick to it that you simply have to try it to understand what I (and many others) are raving about. Also, the basics of this desert weren’t lacking either, you have the moist+warm chocolate cake, thick melted chocolate (with chilli) surrounding it, a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and it was served on a hot plate! Every bite was like having a little bit of heaven (or fiery hell, depending on how you look at it=P) in your mouth.
Fighting for the Chilli Chocolate Cake
Ok, so maybe El Toro isn’t that bad after all. The slow service, $$$$$ meal and yuckeroos Fajitas were thankfully saved by the other dishes. If you are there, remember that the first thing you have to do is order the Chilli Chocolate Cake (less you forget), ask for drinks specials, forget the Fajitas, go for the Grilled Calamari and come back here to tell me about it. (many thanks!)