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El Toro Blanco

Pia Mileaf-Patel

$35 a person

Like I’ve said before, I love Mexican food. I am in love with Mexican food. I want to marry it. So when I read about a new-ish Mexican restaurant, that serves both dinner and brunch (yay brunch!), eating there became number one on my list of things to do. And between my birthday, and the school play opening, it wasn’t hard to find an excuse to go there, twice.

            El Toro Blanco is a pretty, modern, colorful and festive restaurant in the Village, near Bleecker Street and is in a perfect neighborhood to hang out in if you go there for brunch. There’s a lot of shopping, good food, and just general prettiness. The first time I went was on a Tuesday night, and it was pretty busy for a weeknight, but despite that, our waitress was very friendly and took the time to give great suggestions about some of the best dishes on the menu. There were tacos, tamales, empanadas, and an abundance of other delicious things. Also, they had my favorite sodas, Jarritos, in three really good flavors, and a variety of cocktails (if you’re old enough of course…)

            I went with my mom and little brother, after piano lessons. We decided to try a bunch of different things. Chips and guac is a staple, so we started with that that, and were happy that it came with three different salsas that were perfectly matched to the guacamole. One was garlic-y, one smoky and the other one spicy. Off of the side dish section of the menu, we had plantains and Mexican street corn. The corn was delicious, and grilled to buttery perfection with different flavors throughout. I really hate corn and I had seconds and thirds of this… I guess it’s a vegetable, right? The plantains were addictive. I had to fight my mom over the last few.

            We tried one taco, one tamale and one ceviche. I opted for the Baja fish tacos, being my favorite kind, but there were also other fish, meat and vegetable options. The fish was crispy and the taco was full of other flavors that perfectly balanced it. The Elote Verde tamale must have been my favorite thing. The sweet corn cake was covered in melted cheese, that addictive corn that I ate too much of and fresh salsa.             Ceviche is a kind of salsa-ish thing that is basically vegetables and herbs, with some lime-cured fish, all chopped up and served on crackers. We ordered the snapper type, and it was served with three perfect little round tortilla chips, dotted with a slice of avocado. Needless to say, this had us running back for more.

            El Toro Blanco also has a bunch/lunch menu, and my mom and I thought that we had to bring my dad there to see for himself how good the food is, instead of just listening to us talk about it. We made a reservation and went on Palm Sunday.

            It was brighter this time, and a little bit livelier, with festive lighting and groups of people laughing and enjoying brunch together. I think that brunch just has that effect on people. It’s so good, especially when it involves Mexican food. My dad instantly noticed  the music, periodically asking me, “You love Pink Floyd, right? Yeah, of course you do,” and singing along (quietly, thank goodness) to the music they were playing. I’m glad we had a reservation, because it was more crowded than on Tuesday night

            We ordered a little differently this time, each having our own dishes, because on the brunch menu, there are a lot of eggs and sweet things, like Pan Dulce con Plantanos, which I really want to go back and try. My brother got chicken fingers from the kid’s menu, and I have to say, they were really, really good. Like, really good. I was in a savory mood and had the Chilaquiles con Huevos, baked tortilla chips in sauce, with fried eggs, cheese and avocado on top. The eggs were cooked perfectly, with soft yolks, and went together really well with the rest of the dish, and also the music that my dad loved so much. Even my food was festive and brunch-y. My mom got a chorizo and scrambled egg breakfast burrito, and my dad, having missed out on our dinner, had fish tacos and tuna ceviche, which he liked as much as we did.

            Since there were four of us, it made so much sense to get dessert. I am in love with the Coconut Tapioca. It is topped with toasted coconut, pineapple and mango sorbet. We were fighting over it. We also had churros, fried dough with cinnamon and sugar, which were hot and crunchy and amazing.

            It was really lovely. The waiters were friendly, and the brunch atmosphere made the food 10 times as good (not that that was necessary). I would go back in a second.