A restaurant and tequila bar that does its food and drink true justice. Although the space is small and loud, and although flavor tends to run on the mild side, it's a perfect option for the young and young at heart.
I'm never one to turn down elevated Mexican food, and El Toro Blanco is absolutely no exception. Portions are small and the plates are cheap, and an amazing freshness in the ingredients is highlighted in every dish. The guacamole is excellently refreshing, although it might benefit from another teaspoon of salt. The appetizers here truly shine, so don't hold back on ordering a round for the table. The Empanadas are the perfect sharing size, and the thin, crispy dough will have you immediately craving another bite. The Champiñones are particularly outstanding, filled with cremini mushrooms, huitlacoche (our favorite Mexican fungus), epazote, and queso oaxaca. The Sonoran Cheese Crisp is what you get when you breed a pizza with a quesadilla, and features a dark, crispy, thin tortilla base, a ton of Mexican cheese, poblano rajas, and roasted tomatoes. I was only left wishing that I had gotten a little more heat to balance out the great textures and creamy flavors.
The Baja Fish Tacos and Ceviche are also light and fresh, fitting the menu perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed the Grilled Swordfish tacos, served in two corn tortillas filled with citrus slaw, avocado, radish, cilantro, and jalapeño aioli, which somehow wasn't spicy enough for my taste. Still, you leave feeling as if you filled up with something good for yourself, satisfying every craving for contemporary Mexican.
At 8 PM on a Friday night the restaurant will have just filled up, but show up any time before and there won't be any issue getting a table (this might not have been true a year ago, but the novelty of light Mexican in the West Village has finally worn off). Ideal for small tables of 2 to 4, slightly larger groups (up to 6 or 7) can still be accommodated easily with a reservation made ahead of time. Although the restaurant is loud, with music screaming along the walls of the bar, service is very good-natured, and a quick kitchen will complete a welcoming visit.
All in all, El Toro Blanco is a stylish restaurant that serves up small, elegant plates that keep you safely in the bounds of what you know about Mexican food.