Images: Georgia Haynes
In Glen Waverley, a place far away from the enthusiastic food-consuming fervour of inner city hipsterville, lies Kingsway, a bustling strip lined with delicious, but predominantly Asian restaurants. Bang-smack in the middle of the Vietnamese and Chinese eateries is the slightly out of place but extremely palatable Hispanic offering, The Black Toro.
Glen Waverley locals Garen Maskal, Aret Arzadian and Sasoon Arzadian come from Armenian backgrounds, the cuisine manifestation of which can be found at The Black Toro’s sister restaurant, Sezar. These experienced foodies began the Spanish fusion establishment after travel inspired them to bring a high-end dining experience to their area.
Black Toro boasts friendly, helpful staff at a time when more weight is placed on a good restaurant fit-out and a trendy postcode than on superior customer service. With a happy buzz coming from surrounding tables and Booker T Jones playing in the background, I was in the mood to enjoy good food.
The Spanish feast began with fresh guac and crisp tortilla chips, and a delicious cocktail aptly named “El Matador” – a heady mix of Canadian Club, peach puree, fresh mint, lemon and apple juice.
To set a higher brow tone to the meal, the smoked kingfish tostada with avocado-yoghurt, chives and avruga appeared. The smokiness of the kingfish was paired well with the rich avruga caviar, the creamy avocado and crunchy tostada. Chives brought freshness to this dish. The combo of flavours was spot on.
Following this, the grilled octopus was a very Spanish dish that rivalled my best-ever summer tapas experiences in Barcelona. This was business-end Spanish – crispy pieces of hash brown much like the patatas bravas seen all over Spain, very tender barbecued octopus, morcilla sausage (a blood and pork combination) bringing some creamy, slightly musky richness to the dish, and a tangy garlic aioli. Even if you think blood sausage isn’t for you, this dish will change your mind.
From here on out, the dishes became a bit more American diner-ish, and less Spanish, but they were so delicious that you wouldn’t hear complaints about the deviation from the theme. The braised lamb ribs were cooked for 12 hours overnight, the result being a tender meat that fell off the bone and melted in the mouth, the fat rendered down perfectly. The beef brisket sliders – the brisket in which had been cooked the same amount of time as the ribs – were a revelation.
The achiote spice used in the meat was musky like a Spanish-spiced brisket should be, and the Japanese kewpie mayonnaise a delicious and brave twist.
What followed was a dessert platter that consisted of five indulgent treats. I advise you to get this baby to share, unless you’re greedy like me. The platter’s three standouts were the vanilla sponge, caramelized pineapple and coconut and lime trifle, the deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake and the banana sandwich.
The trifle was a light combo of citrusy lime tang, meringue, dehydrated crunchy pineapple, toasted coconut and creamy coconut gelato. I snaffled that down and swiftly moved onto the cheesecake, which consisted of peanut butter and chocolate gelato, chocolate cookie biscuit crumbs, peanut brittle honeycomb and peanut butter fudge. I’ve noticed incarnations of frozen peanut butter desserts have been popping up on menus everywhere in the last few years, and with good reason – they’re bloody delicious. The banana sandwich was a beautiful caramelly combo of aerated bread, dulce de leche, cream cheese gelato and a hint of cinnamon. It was just like a frozen banoffee pie. I could have had ten more, but that would have been embarrassing.
Black Toro is the full dining experience – great food, good service and a warm atmosphere. I wouldn’t hesitate to venture out to Glen Waverley to experience it again.