Until I earned my master’s degree in Latin American Studies, my knowledge of Latin-Asian fusion was relegated solely to restaurants. And, frankly, I never understood why Latin and Asian were fused, but merely appreciated that I could eat sushi and dance the samba or eat empanadas and also have yucca fries.
My studies taught me many things—but I did learn that there are large Asian populations in several parts of Latin American, particularly Peru and Brazil. While Paraguay and Bolivia have large indigenous populations, and northern South America—Colombia and Brazil—have heavy African cultural and historical influences, there’s also an Asian presence.
Here in Washington, Chef Richard Sandoval has cornered the Latin-Asian fusion culinary niche, with Masa 14 and Zengo. All three of his restaurants—the aforementioned two as well as Mexican hotspot El Centro—are notorious for their bottomless-and-endless prix fixe brunches.
I met my friend Alana while studying in Peru, and we’ve spent a lively night or two salsa dancing in Cusco and also at Sandoval’s spots here in Washington. It was only appropriate that I ask her to brunch at Sandoval’s latest spot, Toro Toro, which self describes as a Latin American steakhouse with Asian influences.
Like the other Richard Sandoval restaurants, Toro Toro offers up a bottomless-and-endless brunch at a set price of $39. I rode my bicycle in, and was promptly seated on the patio. Our gregarious waiter, who was Mexican and enthusiastic about the World Cup, plied me with coffee, blood orange mimosas, and water while I awaited Alana’s arrival. Like any good Latina, she was egregiously late.
Once she sat down, we looked at the menu. “Is the buffet the only option?” I asked our waiter with sincere alarm. Toro Toro invited us in, and honestly, I’d been too busy to learn much about the restaurant beforehand, save for that it was new and owned by Sandoval.
I had missed the restaurant’s opening party, and Becca was positively frightened at the opening party for the downstairs dance club. We Bitches don’t take kindly to nightclubs—or buffets.
“Alright, let’s give it a go,” Alana said, and we were off to the buffet.
The hot-and-cold buffet tables provided all sorts of options, a major bonus in an age when everyone has a dietary restriction.
I was particularly taken by the cheese and charcuterie display, alongside cold risottos, fresh salads, fruit, and more. There was also maple bacon, which I piled into heaps on my plate, along with scrambled eggs, salads, prosciutto, and fresh fruit: pineapple, watermelon, and berries. I appreciated that the fruit was fresh and that the selection included my favorites. No one wants honeydew, Bitches.
The hot buffet is lined back in the open kitchen—it was great to be able to see the chefs carving meats and whipping up eggs as you went down the line. It made waiting less boring if you were by yourself, and the sight confirmed the food was fresh.
At the hot bar, there were quiches, eggs, a selection of carved meats, and other egg and meat concoctions. The winner for us was the empanadas (my favorite food). These were baked and filled with sweet corn, cheese and onions, and absolutely delectable. I went back for seconds.
As for the cocktails, the menu offered delicious, fresh, and frothy bellinis, blood orange mimosas, and regular mimosas. There was a Bloody Mary bar, where you could craft your Mary with tequila or vodka, which Alana liked. I tend to turn my nose up at Bloody bars, as I think they can get messy and unsanitary quite quickly.
After cocktails, we went back for dessert. The buffet included charming mini mason jars filled with a berry compote or a key lime pie. I sampled the key lime pie, which was good but the whipped cream on top was a bit hard after sitting there for so long.
The dessert selection could have been better. Beyond mini mason jars, there were also slices of currant loaf bread, and a chocolate waffle bar.
I whipped up a chocolate waffle and covered it with chocolate sauce. The Belgian chocolate waffle was a bit dry, which is often the case. It would have been far better if there was butter or whipped cream to plop atop it.
There were also lovely martini glasses filled with Greek yogurt and fresh berries, and topped with mint, which is a great way to begin or conclude your brunch.
The Bitches say: B-. Toro Toro offers up a smorgasbord of a buffet with bottomless cocktails in a large space downtown. It’s great for rowdy groups, families, or when you’re looking for a patio near Farragut. But the food is by no means gourmet, and the décor is a bit edgy for daytime.
1300 I (Eye) St. N.W.
Toro Toro serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.