On Monday, July 20 Toro Latin Kitchen opened in the JW Marriott in Cherry Creek. The concept — the eighth iteration from internationally-acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval — brings the kind of upscale Latin fare that the chef has become synonymous with. Named to highlight the dual meaning of Toro — bull in Spanish and tuna in Japanese — the menu emphasizes a range of dishes that utilize classic and innovative techniques to highlight ingredients from across Latin American and Asia.
The 6,700 square foot space features a massive patio, a cozy lounge and a delightful open kitchen — which was intentionally designed to facilitate an ongoing series of cooking demos and classes. The decorations — including a massive bull mural by local artist Patrick Kane McGregor — are stylish, with plenty of cacti, antlers and leather furnishings giving the place an appropriate international chic. The speakers consistently play the kind of tunes that could easily be found in Tulum — globally-inspired house tracks compelling diners to feel hip. All seating has been intentionally arranged to promote distancing, though the presentation never feels forced. Even with limiting the number of guests to 50% capacity, the place is lively. Waitstaff all wear makes fitted with the Toro logo and tend to customers with effortless, white tablecloth sophistication.
The kitchen is helmed by Richard Sandoval alumni Oscar Padilla. Having cut his teeth in Mexico City kitchens, Padilla has worked with Sandoval for over six years opening more than 15 new concepts worldwide — including locations in Dubai, Qatar, Mexico and Costa Rica — not to mention other local Sandoval mainstay Tamayo. Starters include traditional guacamole ($12) — which excels in its uncluttered commitment to the classic style — and a smoked swordfish dip ($15) — complete with aioli, cilantro, pickled jalapeno, lemon juice and the highly-addictive house-made plantain chips. The Amarillo ceviche ($17) — with hamachi, aji Amarillo, leche de tiger, mango, cucumber and red onion — is a house-favorite, successfully transporting diners to more coastal surroundings. The salmon ($24) — with dashi-braised bok choy, cauliflower puree and bacon morita chili jam — is drenched in broth tableside. The aromatic combination of dashi, kombu, mirin, achiote, ponzu and orange juice speaks to the menu’s Asian influence and propels the dish to be one of best options on both lunch and dinner lists.
While the cuisine is top-tier, the drinks make a damn good case for stealing the show. The Mercado Margarita ($12) — with Ianteo habanero tequila, passion fruit, agave nectar and hibiscus-rosemary foam — is one of the best in the city, more resembling some kind of utopian tropical fruit than a traditional cocktail. The Gooseberry Daisy ($16) — with Diplomatica Reserva rum, lime, gooseberries, passion fruit tea syrup and angostura bitters — arrives in a copper pineapple, continuing the restaurant’s commitment to entertaining glassware. While the whole menu is satisfying, nothing is nearly as eyecatching as the Casual Encounter ($18) — a combination of Stranahan’s whiskey, Cocchi Americano, Drambuie and orange bitters, that arrives to the table in a glass container filled with woodsmoke. The grand entrance delights the senses, the smoky flavor lingering even after the fumes dissipate.
Toro is a good example of why Sandoval has reached such heights of worldwide success. Food, drink, decor and hospitality are all impeccable — each a finely-tuned illustration of what 18 years and over 45 restaurants can help perfect. With Sandoval’s experience and Padilla’s creative, site-specific menu, Toro arrives as one of the year’s most exciting new additions to Denver’s growing scene.
Toro Latin Kitchen is located in the JW Marriott Cherry Creek at 150 Clayton Ln., Denver. It is open for lunch every day from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., and dinner from Sunday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.