The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ hip mash-up of Latin and Asian cuisine is no bull.
It generally pays to follow the “don’t dine in a hotel restaurant unless you’re on vacation” rule. Hey, I like lobster bisque and conservatively seasoned filet mignon as much as the next person, but why settle for reliable standbys?
Of course, there are notable exceptions, including Kai at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, T. Cook’s at Royal Palms Resort & Spa and, now, Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Overlooking the 18th hole of TPC Scottsdale (and how resort-y is that?), Toro is the latest alliance between the hotel and celebrity chef Richard Sandoval, who owns and operates 35 restaurant concepts around the world.
Born of an apt double entendre – toro means “bull” in Spanish and “tuna belly” in Japanese – the restaurant specializes in pan-Latin cuisine with Japanese-Peruvian (Nikkei) and Chinese-Peruvian (Chifa) influences, offering small plates plus a stellar collection of grilled meats and chef’s specialties.
The renovated space is steeped in earth tones, with an industrial-chic open-beam ceiling and central bar with seating for 38. In the evening, the restaurant dims the lights, stages live Latin music and dancing, and assumes the guise of an urban nightspot. During the day, the atmosphere, for lack of a better term, is masculine. It’s the kind of vibe you often find at golf course restaurants, but don’t let that throw you. This is no ordinary 19th-hole chow house.
Toro touts the Valley’s largest selection of rums, weighing in at an impressive 111 varieties, and features rum flights and a daily rum punch ladled tableside by the on-staff “rum princesa.” The skilled bartenders mix a killer handcrafted Mai Tai ($15) and a vast assortment of rum cocktails.
Tucking into the suviche bar – a combination of sushi and ceviche – you’ll find light and fresh shrimp ceviche ($14), a tasty combination of shrimp, slivers of avocado, red onions, cucumbers, small chunks of orange and tomatoes bathed in a spicy citrus-habanero broth. The rainbow tropical roll ($16) – four pieces of rice-wrapped tuna, hamachi, salmon and avocado – was topped with a sweet mango-papaya salsa and seated on a bed of chili sauce. Also noteworthy: the tuna tiradito ($15), a plate of thinly sliced buttery fish topped with avocado and sliced Fresno chiles.
Fungi lovers will swoon over the wild mushroom flatbread ($12), loaded with truffles, caramelized onions and tangy goat cheese crowned with arugula. The crisp crust is made in the cracker-like Catalan style – a welcome change from typical doughy flatbreads. Other appetizers include the corn empanadas ($12), four pieces of dough-wrapped mozzarella, aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chile pepper) and cilantro served with chimichurri sauce. I couldn’t find the corn, but it was otherwise flavorful.
Salads are run-of-the mill, with the exception of the lunch Toro chopped salad ($12), a pleasing mix of greens with tomatoes, chayote, fava beans, queso fresco, bacon, roasted corn and tortilla strips in a sherry vinaigrette. The local tomato salad ($11) looked promising, but the tomatoes were overripe and the watermelon lacked flavor.
To really get a sense of Toro’s kitchen proficiency, try the grilled entrées and chef’s specialties. The Wagyu skirt steak ($39), a healthy serving of melt-in-your-mouth, appropriately-marbled beef, was served with chimichurri and mojo, an olive oil-based sauce with garlic, paprika, cumin and other spices, as well as three starchy yucca fries. The Mexican campfire-style snapper ($28), a mild flame-cooked fish marinated in pasilla chile and accompanied by avocado slices, chayote slaw and three flour tortillas, was first-rate. Another solid choice: the Nikkei barbecue ribs ($26), tender pork ribs reminiscent of Chinese spare ribs with a sweet outer coating drizzled sesame seeds.
On the dessert front, try the pumpkin picarones ($10), five balls of pumpkin-infused dough, each fried until crisp and with the texture of a doughnut, a scone and a cookie all rolled into one delicious fritter, served with a side of velvety Tahitian anglaise dipping sauce. For those with large appetites, save room for the chocolate cake ($10), an enormous slab layered with caramel and wrapped in dark chocolate fudge icing. Four men sitting at a table next to us ordered one slice to share and couldn’t finish it.
Tucked away at the TPC, Toro is somewhat hard to find on the Princess property, but its singular fusion of South American and Asian cuisine – distinct from the Mexican-Asian routine at Sumo Maya down the street – hits a hole in one. Hotel address or no.
Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar
Contact: 17020 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-585-4848, scottsdaleprincess.com/dining/toro
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; bar 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Highlights: Shrimp ceviche ($14); wild mushroom flatbread ($12); Mexican campfire snapper ($26); Wagyu skirt steak ($39); pumpkin picarones ($10)
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