The lawyers from Solowsky Allen are finally full. They’ve flipped over the “Si Por Favor” card on their table at Toro Toro to the “No Gracias” on the back.
The roving pasadors, or meat servers, who patrol the restaurant carrying slabs of steak, lamb, sausage and chicken seem disappointed when they spot the card but quickly move to the next table, their knives poised to start carving.
“The meat was excellent,” partner Jay Solowsky pronounced. “It was very well done. We work next door, and we’ve been waiting for this place to open.”
Toro Toro opened last month at the InterContinental Miami, replacing the lavish, all-you-can-eat Indigo buffet that occupied much of the hotel lobby for 15 years.
The new restaurant, a “pan Latin” steakhouse, is part of a $30 million facelift at one of downtown Miami’s iconic hotels.
“It was getting tired,” hotel manager Robert Hill said. “We needed to do something new and fresh.”
The hotel chain chose international chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval to recreate his Dubai Toro Toro in Miami. The restaurant features small plates classically found at rodizio restaurants, such as arepas (crispy corn cake pockets filled with shredded short rib, guacamole and crema fresca); a wild mushroom coca flatbread topped with arugula, goat cheese, carmelized shallots and truffle oil; and snapper sashimi.
The $27 executive lunch is the big draw. Served in an artisanal lunch box is salad (Caesar or baby greens), rice, beans, sauteed vegetables and dessert (key lime, dark chocolate pie or pumpkin cheesecake paletas). The meal includes unlimited churrasco from the pasadors.
“The executive lunch is our most popular dish because it’s quick, and we know most of our guests want to get in and out in 45 minutes,” general manager Michael Savitt noted.
That’s what our friends at Solowsky Allen had.
I stopped by with a guest recently for lunch. We are lighter eaters and found plenty to eat in the noncarnivorous category. She started with the butternut squash soup prepared with pieces of crispy ham, caramelized apple and crema fresca. Her next course was the pepito steak sandwich with black bean puree, caramelized onions, vegetable escabeche and jack cheese. She sent the meat back, declaring it “too raw,” and it returned, unbelievably, just two minutes later. She pronounced it “perfectly cooked, not dried out at all,” and raved about the thin and crispy fries served with it.
I also started with soup, the caldo de pollo, which consisted of chicken broth, shredded chicken, rice, onion, cilantro, tomato and avocado. The soups are served in nice-sized clay tureens.
My main course was the seared ahi tuna tiradito salad with baby greens, avocado, spring onion, ginger and lemon wasabi vinaigrette. The tuna was thin and fresh, and the vinaigrette light and refreshing.
But my favorite part of the lunch was the bread brought to all diners on a little wooden plate. I don’t know what they put in the round rolls, but they are sweet and crunchy and go perfectly with the salsa chutney in a jar on the table.
With dark wood floors and ceilings, comfortable leather lounge seating and a rustic bar, the ambience in the newly designed space is sleek and sophisticated.
For dinner, the eatery is looking to attract guests and locals. But for lunch, it’s trying to capture that lucrative downtown power lunch crowd. And with a built-in clientele of lawyers, businessmen and bankers in the adjoining office tower, that shouldn’t be a problem.
“We’re busier at lunch right now, but with over 1,800 guests working next door, we expected that,” Savitt said. “We strongly believe that our lunch business will feed into the dinner business.”
While some diners have inquired where the long-time buffet went, most are embracing the new restaurant, Savitt said, noting, “We’re getting repeat guests three to four times a week. We’re getting lawyers, brokers and people from the entertainment field.”
But some, like John Meagher, a partner at Shutts & Bowen next door, still miss the buffet.
“There’s a question in my mind as to whether the buffet should come back,” he said. “I’m not sure whether it was a good idea or not.”
Still, Meagher, who has lunched at Toro Toro a half dozen times since it opened, gives the restaurant a thumb’s up, calling the staff friendly and knowledgeable, the food good, the portions large and the prices reasonable. He usually orders the ceviche or Toro Toro burger.
Will Toro Toro became downtown Miami’s newest power lunch spot? It’s too early to say, Meagher said.
“I haven’t seen a lot of people there yet,” he said. “It’s not yet known. And there’s a lot of competition out there now.”
“At this point, I think they’re trading more on the hotel business than as a power lunch spot.”