3 stars for Latin eats at Toro Toro in Downtown Miami

Miami’s iconic InterContinental Hotel, with its dramatic tower and 70-ton Henry Moore sculpture, finally has a restaurant worthy of its surroundings. Toro Toro by restau-preneur Richard Sandoval, whose portfolio spans the globe from Dubai to D.C., is a natural for Miami. It’s a place for visitors seeking authentic flavors without a trek to Little Havana for rice and beans or a Brazilian steak joint for churrasco. You can find all those things and much more here on a menu meant for sharing and exploring. It’s a Latin primer in a casual but upscale setting attended by a charming staff.

Ambience: The studied, rustic patina of the dining room is a stark contrast to the lobby’s shiny travertine marble. Beyond the bellboys and Starbuck’s, the chocolaty wood floor, teaky tables and deep leather couches create a warm ease. Dozens of thick glass jars hang over bare bulbs illuminating the space like fireflies. Namesake metal bulls dot the décor while accents of red add a needed dash of color. A wide and welcoming L-shaped bar is worth a stop for a cocktail like the signature Ring My Bell, a bell pepper and rosemary-spiked margarita with a zing. A hundred-bottle wine list is global and value-priced but has only a few by-the-glass selections.

What Worked

  • A plate of addictive, warm and golden pan de bono – golf-ball-size cheesy rolls made with yuca flour
  • A small but perfect heirloom caprese salad with burrata
  • A basket of lightly fried calamari given spicy flair by a creamy chipotle dipping sauce
  • Delightful flat bread pizza with gently wilted mushrooms, goat cheese, a whisper of truffle oil and a confetti of newborn arugula
  • Stunning towers of crisp, slightly crumbly arepas haystacked with lusciously tender threads of short rib and the tiniest dabs of crema and guacamole
  • Delectable lamb anticuchos – ground, skewered and grilled until lightly browned, but still pink inside and served with a minty yogurt dipping sauce
  • Exceptionally good smoked swordfish dip seasoned with bits of pickled chiles and tomato served with boat-shaped arcs of salty, fried plantain
  • Slim, gently grilled octopus tentacle cut neatly and served with an emerald green cilantro sauce and kicky Peruvian adobo
  • Crisply fried empanadas stuffed with raisin-studded picadillo
  • Brazilian-style churrasco with inconceivably tender skin-on achiote chicken, plump chorizo, three slender but perfectly juicy lamb chops, a chunky rib-eye and an absolutely perfect crown of picanha (top sirloin)
  • Churros served hot and golden with an extra kick from a gentle dusting of cinnamon and five-spice powder

What Didn’t Work

  • Many tapas plates arrived with three items, an awkward number when diners generally arrive in pairs
  • Nearly inedible super fresh hamachi tiradito lozenges soaked in an insipid soy sauce infused with tajin (a Mexican spice blend)
  • A “dry as chalk” side of rice and beans