Bouillon Bilk, Montreal and other Montreal eats

Breathe, breathe… in 5 days, my youngest, baby sister will be getting married!

Well, until then, I wanted to share my favorite eat that I think we had when we were in Montreal for her bachelorette party. It’s also one of her favorite dining experiences while we were there. Because we have excellent taste. And, sisters.

After taking a red-eye from Portland to Newark, I then embarked on a puddle jumper to Montreal, Canada. As soon as the plane landed, I connected to the wireless at the Montreal airport and on the long hallway towards customs, found a sign next to a bench for this selfie…

At the airport in baggage claim, I met up with two of Judy’s friends. After a stop for some sugar and caffeine at the airport’s Tim Horton‘s – a place I would recommend for meeting people, as they have seats and tables, and you can then use the airport wireless while having a snack/waiting, and the taxis or Metro Network shuttle bus 747 into the city all leave from basically in front of that anyway. We took a selfie proof of life/arrival to send her before we left baggage claim though!

I had found a place for all of girls to stay all in one loft to maximize all our time together, at the request of my sister. Thanks AirBnB. I picked our final location not just based on the number of occupants, but I had mapped various activities we were interested in, most of them being um restaurants and bars, and based on where they all ended up clustering on Google Maps picked a home base convenient to that…. which meant we were in walking distance of Old Montreal and downtown.

After dropping off our luggage, we killed some time before our official check-in and when our friends would arrive by walking to the dining on tapas at Tapas 24This is a Montreal outpost of the Barcelona tapas place, which one of the ladies had visited and raved about there, and wanted to try the one here. Unlike the version in Spain, the one here in Montreal was spacious and full of light, with a hip black, orange, and maple wood theme.

Here, our lunch consisted of various tapas and a whole bottle of wine between the 3 of us. Yep. You can pick whichever wine you want and they can make sangria with it. This is also where I think I had my favorite poutine of the whole trip.

Tapas 24 had a whole section of the menu dedicated to “manda huevos” (Send Eggs) so we thought we should have at least one. We picked “manda huevos…con FOIE GRAS. fried eggs – potatoes – foie gras poêlé. We had no idea it would be essentially fries that absorbed the scrambled eggs which I’m pretty sure were just cooked in fat and then topped with foie. But I think I maybe ate half of this dish myself. Foie and eggs are excellent together.

This is also how I found out that these two ladies are not much in terms of drinkers… so maybe I was assisting a lot in trying to drink that pitcher. And so I really needed that dish! I was trying to carefully balance between how sometimes alcohol can help perk you up and be social, and other times start to make you sleepy (which I already was tired from the redeye here!).
Pick a bottle and they will make sangria with it at Tapas 24  Foie eggs and potatoes - a Tapas poutine at Tapas 24

Overall, with Tapas 24, my friend was disappointed that they didn’t have the variety that the Barcelona Tapas 24 has, and for the price the food portions were tiny.

We didn’t think much of the McFoie burger that is really the size of a Mc-sandwich and whose only saving grace is the foie mousse on the side…which I ate without the dried out meat of the burger and bun.

With all the deliciuosness that Montreal has to offer, this had promise but didn’t deliver. After this lunch, we spent the next couple hours walking the Underground City to keep busy, as well as buy snacks (I love buying international flavors of chips) and champagne to welcome our friends when they arrived.
A collage of our eats at Tapas 24 that day for lunch, 3 people and one big pitcher of sangria Tapas 24 on Urbanspoon

My favorite dinner of the 3 evenings was at a restaurant called Bouillon Bilk, which we dined at on very same day, Thursday evening. Looking back at my Google spreadsheet where I was copying and pasting various ideas for restaurants and their addresses, hours, cuisine type, and url, Bouillon Bilk was one of the first 10 restaurants I highlighted as it ranked high on Tripadvisor in their restaurant list, was mentioned on Eater, and in other reviews I read online as a wonderful experience.

They were all exactly right.

Sign of Bouillon Bilk, snuggled between two electronic shops in Montreal Menu of Bouillon Bilk

This was the beginning of ordering family style, where we essentially would order “we’ll have this entire section except X and Y”. So I was able to try most of the menu. Every dish was plated like a work of art, and the flavors were either fresh and best ingredients, or layered on top of each other so even with a little bite you wanted to let it just dissolve on your tongue.

As I said, this was my favorite of where we dined, with other dining destinations that weekend including Jardin Nelson for lunch (a glimpse from a collage photo below – it does have an extensive menu and is great for groups, but only takes reservations for lunch not dinner), Le Deux Gamins for dinner, carry out lunch at Olive & Gourmando (a place I would also try again, but definitely not with a group as they are too small and busy to accommodate a large party. I had a lovely Housemade Ricotta “salty” with Summer tomatoes, sweet summer corn and pine nuts served with toasts shown below), and Au Pied du Cuchon. My sister’s other favorite dining experience was Au Pied du Cochon, so I’ll write a separate post about that later.

A glimpse of a lunch at Jardin Nelson grabbing lunch to go at Olive et Gourmando - my Housemade Ricotta

Here’s what we had between the 7 of us that evening at Bouillon Bilk. These photos are not mine, I believe they came from my sister’s camera but we all put our pictures together so it’s hard to tell. All I did was crop and clean up the photos slightly if I could.


melons, blackberries, pistachios, goat cheese, heart of palm. I liked this refreshing dish with its play on various textures.
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, melons, blackberries, pistachios, goat cheese, heart of palm
dumpling, pork, plum, celery, rice stem. This was one giant dumpling!
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, dumpling, pork, plum, celery, rice stem
risotto, carrot, basil, passion fruit. this usually also has shrimp but we asked for it sans for the vegetarian.
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, risotto, carrot, basil, passion fruit
hamachi, yuzu kosho, raspberry, fennel, cucumber. That hamachi was melt in your mouth.
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, hamachi, yuzu kosho, raspberry, fennel, cucumber
lobster, tomato, chili, avocado, nectarine
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, lobster, tomato, chili, avocado, nectarine
tuna tartare, which was INCREDIBLE. It was a special for that night and almost ordered it again because it was so good, but they ran out!
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, tuna tartare


scallops, zucchinis, shitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, scallops, zucchinis, shitake, pear, watercress, beurre noisette
ravioli, corn, lamb, porcini, olive, swiss chard
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, ravioli, corn, lamb, porcini, olive, swiss chard
salmon, artichoke, romano, tomato, apricot, fennel vadouven
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, salmon, artichoke, romano, tomato, apricot, fennel vadouven
duck, a special that night of magret or duck breast filet
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, magret or duck special that night
guinea fowl, lentils, radish, yellow feet mushrooms, figs
Bouillon Bilk in Montreal, guinea fowl, lentils, radish, yellow feet mushrooms, figs

I would definitely come back here if I return to Montreal again. Montreal has a big beer scene, and I didn’t see any of that as we were mostly focused on wine and cocktails and shots…

I hope to see you again, Bouillon Bilk, Montreal. Wonderful dinner and company with Team Thursday of Montreal on September 11, 2014. After this incredible dinner, we were revived and continued on to the club Velvet within L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel and even bagels at Fairmont Bagel (note: next time take a BAG of Montreal bagels back home, don’t just buy 1!). It was a fantastic start to our Bachelorette Weekend!
Team Thursday at Judy's Bachelorette Party, dining at Bouillon Bilk in Montreal on September 11, 2014 Team Thursday at Judy's Bachelorette Party, dining at Bouillon Bilk in Montreal on September 11, 2014

Have you been to Montreal? What would you recommend the next time I visit?

What did you think of my dilemma of ordering a pitcher that includes a whole bottle of wine and then finding out they each probably can’t drink more than 2 glasses, if that? Have you ever flown a redeye and what did you do to keep yourself up and lasting for the day?


Boston Eats

First stop after landing in Boston (saying goodbye to the sunshine of Colorado and hello to the gloomy cloudy drizzle of the east coast)? Off to a shared appetizer Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, basically in Harvard Square area. While we worked we nibbled on an appetizer of Melted Cambozola Cheese, Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms, which you can then spoon atop Thyme Garlic Flatbread. We each also ordered small plates for dinner. I’m not sure what was on the scallop dish, but that was one mega sized scallop.

I went with was the Crispy Soft Poached Chip-In Farm Egg with  Pecorino Aioli, Toasted Brioche, House Pancetta, which turned out to wonderfully balance the soft texture with runny yolk of a poached egg with the crispness of a frying it slightly with the same crust you would find in a salad topped with pan-fried goat cheese. Most adventerous was the Crispy Pigs Head Cake  with Soft Poached Egg and Ginger-Maple Aioli, in which it supposedly tastes a bit like breakfast from the savory meat combined with the yolk of the poached egg and maple from the aioli giving it a tinge of sweetness.

On Thursdays at Masa Southwest, you can get the happy hour special of 10 different bites of tapas for a mere $10 on an even more extra special price of $5! It is only served in the bar area. From left to right, top row to bottom row:

  1. Queso Fundido Empanada with Jalapeno and Cilantro was kicking spicy and my favorite of the bites
  2. Chili Almond Stuffed Date wrapped in Bacon, Ancho Crema underneath also rated quite high, I could have had a whole plate of these and ate them like popcorn
  3. Pork Spring Roll with BBQ Sauce and it was perfectly fried so it was crispy and not oily
  4. Shredded Chicken Taquito with Chipotle Aioli underneath, that aioli was nice and spicy
  5. Yucca con Puerco with Cilantro Aioli, my second favorite bite of the combo platter
  6. Grilled Chorizo with Cranberry Chutney to give a bit of sweetness to the spicy slice of sausage
  7. Poached Shrimp with tostones and Salsa Gulf
  8. Cucumber with cottage cheese and Mango Dill Sauce was a bit of cool relief from the heat of the bites in the top row, and is a genius appetizer I may recreate as a little hors’dourves in the future
  9. Bruscheta de queso with Tomato Cilantro Pesto was the plainest, with not enough pesto go balance out the chewy bread and watery tomatoes that pale in comparison to the tastier tomatoes I’ve been enjoying from local farmers’ market.
  10. Crudita del Dia with Poblano Ranch Dressing also offered a bit of cool cream to balance the bits of spice in the other bites

We also ate dinner there, as we were intrigued by a special Oktoberfest menu they were offering that seemed quite a bargain at $35 for three courses that also included a 6oz beer with each course from Smuttynose.

Jasper White’s Summer Shack– prepare to get messy eating the famous lobsters here. The best part to the mussels appetizer is the garlic rubbed grilled bread soaking up the sauce of wine, garlic & herbs, but the lobster potstickers are not worth it.

Jasper’s pan roasted lobster in 1 1/4 lb totally is- it’s the signature dish here. When they just place a bucket on the table for your shells, you know it’s time to get down. Is there any other vehicle for butter that celebrates it so openly that you are cracking open and wrenching meat out with butter and  dripping through 10 fingers to your wrists and requires a bib to catch the various chervil and chive drippings and 2 wet-naps. Perhaps I tied my hair back but inevitably might have brushed or flicked some butter into my long side bangs. Or maybe I am a messy eater. Ha ha, “maybe”. 

Even as you wrestle the sweet meat from the shells, you are also taking some of the rolls and dunking them or rolling your corn on the cob into the “soup” of decadent sauce? You can’t argue that the lobster epitomizes Jasper White’s philosophy of “Food is Love”

Flour Bakery, we stopped at the Central Square location- adorable logo, and their baked goods of snacks of cheddar scallion + brioche au sucre. I also got to try bite of the fresh mozzarella  basil pesto & tomato sandwich and those fresh ingredients with their own bread is moist and probably healthier then the baked goods, but hey. Maybe next time I’ll try their grilled tofu with olive and red pepper tapenade, or grilled roast chicken with brie arugula roasted red peppers and caramelized onions- sounds like a lot of potential.

Thanks L for all the recommendations of the above food destinations. Next stop: New York


Peruvian Tapas: Lunch at Andina

Andina is a standby restaurant that I recommend to any visitor, and especially if you haven't had Peruvian food (which the Wall Street Journal is calling the next big thing). Andina's location is in a more trendy area then Limo (aka Pearl District as opposed to far end of Nob Hill), and the menu larger in terms of variety and they also have the advantage of having been established longer and a larger space. With that also means they are well known and can get pretty busy and the last time I was here for dinner, could barely make out the conversation with the person across from me. That's why I particularly recommend Andina for lunch because it isn't quite as noisy and bustling, though then you miss out on possibly live music. You can conveniently make reservations either way on OpenTable.

Since it was lunch, we declined any of the wonderful looking cocktails we saw around us and stuck with water and Chicha, a purple potato drink that supposedly has roots from the Incas. It tastes sweet actually, not what you would surmise from the description of using purple potato.

We also enjoyed their generous bread service (the best bread service I've had in Portland), with a basket of soft bread and a little speech explaining the 3 dips, going from mild and nutty in the back to the sweet fruity one in the middle and the garlicky spicier one in front. At a time when economicially some restaurants make you ask and charge for bread on your table, Andina keeps the bar high in terms of welcoming experience.

We dined tapas style, ordering 5 plates (they come in small, medium, and large) which we shared, often having halves of items as we ordered smalls for most dishes except for the empanadas which we got a medium so we each could have our own (you can see the sizes below). In retrospect I wish we had done that with the scallops too.

First to arrive were the Empanadas Caseras De Carna, flaky pastry filled with slow-cooked beef, raisins, and Botija olives. This was a meaty empanada, and suddenly at the corner I found essentially all olive. I thought they would have sliced the olives a bit more to distribute it throughout to give those pecks of sourness with the beef. The texture of the pastry was nice though, a great combination of crunch but softness inside.

At the same time to the table were the Yuca Rellena, cheese-stuffed yuca with an ají amarillo and cheese sauce. This is something I always order- I love the sauce (if the had been closer I would have dunked my bread to wipe it up), its creamy and rich and our server joked it's essentially like a Peruvian equivalent to a cheese stick. MMM crispy and gooey cheese stick.


Causas are always great eye candy in terms of presentation. Causas are a traditional preparation of freshly mashed potatoes, in Andina's case additionally infused with key lime juice, and always pressed into a cake with assorted fillings. We selected the seafood one "Mixta Nikkei" with spicy tuna, crab salad, and crispy shrimp over the chicken version or the vegetarian version they had, and it came with slices of avocado fanned aside it.

The last two tapas were my favorite and least favorite of the meal. The Conchas a la Parilla, smokey tasting grilled diver scallops with a garlic lime butter sauce and lots of crispy onions, went down just too quickly. I really wanted more of these, like a whole dish all to myself. Meanwhile, the Ahumados de Mar Y Rio, assorted smoked fish from the river and the sea were just too fishy for my taste, especially after the freshness I tasted from the causa and the conchas dishes.

Dessert visual candy: most pretty pretty princess was the Alfajores, the classic Peruvian cookie, scented with key lime and filled with manjar blanco, essentially a creamy caramel. Also ordered were a fruity berry sorbet and 3 mini creme brulees each highlighting a distinct Peruvian flavor. In all three dishes the cheery white flower was included and brought a sweet look to the plating, but is totally not edible.

I promised myself to come back and enjoy other tapas that were missed this time, but with cocktails, before the end of this year. When I first came to visit Portland, I didn't like the granola-y hippie atmosphere- keep in mind this was more then 10 years ago- and I couldn't see myself living here and liking it. When I stayed for Portland for a week in summer of 2008 ago again to see if I could live here, the Pearl District had been created by then and Andina was one of the stops I made- and it was also a lunch stop just like this visit was.

I loved the meal then, and that experience demonstrating Portland's growing infusion of more sophisticated modernity was part of the tipping point that made me think I could be a Portlander. And, here I am- this week, I will have lived in Portland for 3 years.


Mixed Reviews of Al Amir and Maiden

Al Amir’s chicken shawarma dish with rice at lunch was such juicy tender chicken. And the babaganoush was surprisingly good, with a really smooth appearance and texture that I was suspicious at first, but the flavor was neither too garlicky or smoky- and it definitely had good flavor rather then overcooked eggplant blandness, which happens far to often. Wonderful surprised. It was a shame that the hummus and rice were pretty bland and the pita bread not fluffy fresh (they are warm but that’s it, no different tasting then what you could get at the store and warm up yourself), so except for the chicken and baba ganoush not anything to write about (so I’ll just stop now).

Karam is just around the corner and I plan to visit there sometime, so perhaps I’ll compare then. Certainly I already know their hummus and pitas don’t measure up to Madena of the Pearl, though their chicken is better (but then Madena has great falafal- it comes dry but is helped by a sauce they drape on it… though I didn’t try Al Amir’s falafal.) Honestly, Madena’s hummus and pita isn’t the best I’ve had, but passes enough muster until I find my replacement for my Chicago standbys.


Admittedly, I was drawn to The Maiden because of a drink I had read in a magazine. The Trunk Monkey is a concoction of New Deal’s Hot Monkey chili pepper vodka, muddled lime, pineapple juice, and a dash of grenadine. That vodka really made the drink- I could taste the burn on my tongue and down my throat, and it was a good warmth. New Deal’s distillery is actually in this neighborhood and I hope to visit their tasting room some day and will be bringing a bottle of this home to mix drinks with in the future, definitely.The tapas disappointed though. The bacon wrapped dates stuffed with manchego cheese were great- if you only wanted to taste bacon wrapped dates. And, the patatas bravas (fried potatoes with tomato frito sauce), a classic seemingly easy dish, wasn’t spicy at all, though the potatoes were at least cooked perfectly- it was the sauce that failed. I had been too full to order my other dish I use to judge tapas- tortillas- but I don’t think I missed out.


Just goes to prove that you can’t win them all- I find that most restaurants don’t excel with all their offerings on the menu, and the trick is to be lucky enough or in the know enough to pick the winners. That’s where so far, I’ve found refuge in Yelp and Portland Food and Drink, but nothing as trustworthy as my sources of lthforum in Chicago yet.
Maybe I just look at the world through rose-tinted glasses, but I hope that if I hear a good review and if not all the food is excellent, there must at least be a couple dishes that the chef excels at that made him a chef rather then any other Joe Schmoe cooking at home. The trick is, whether the rest of the experience was good enough to warrant another try- hopefully there was at least a hint of something done right in one of the dishes to flag potential. What happens after that- maybe I discover their star dish that is the only dish I order but is otherwise a perfect to me concoction, or I have a few dates and have to cut my losses and break up (like I did with Typhoon. First time I went I really disliked it, but it was nearby Thai and I stumbled upon a fall special 08 of tilapia with basil and bacon and chili fried rice, and then their pine cone fish and miang kum offering, before wanting to send back dishes like several of their basic noodle dishes that were worse then even standard Americanized Thai hole in the walls’ attempts). Even Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz can’t please every palate with every dish- just like art it’s also the perception of the individual, but just because someone isn’t Michelangelo doesn’t mean that they can’t produce some pieces you really like, as long as that sniff of real talent is there.

Al Amir gave me that sniff of potential with the execution of that chicken, but The Maiden- well, maybe more of an after dinner drink place before hitting the food carts at Hawthorne.


A Trip to Toro Bravo

I've heard of the urban legend of the deliciousness of Toro Bravo, similar to Pok Pok, ever since I first moved to Portland. It is raved about by the local press and web bloggers and foodies in the area, as well as some people I know at work. However, I haven't had a chance to visit because 1. They don't take reservations unless you are a group of 7 or more, and I don't have the patience to wait 2. It is tapas, which is generally limited veggie-friendly and small-dish focused, which means you have to really be willing to share or pay as much as a medium-end restaurant but for tiny plates to get full.

Fortunately, I finally had the opportunity to dine there with a group, and got to taste a lot of the dishes. My summary would be that the food was great- full of flavor, the atmosphere was charged and fun. But, it was also noisy- the room not having good sound proofing is one thing, but did the music have to be so loud on top of the echoes of people and the open kitchen and their pans prepping food right there? We also had a disastrous experience with the check and the waitress insisting she could not divide up the check, and then running one charge at a time and bringing an updated check, and then running another charge an an updated check… and then losing the cash because one of the check clipboards obscured a bunch of $20s. It was ridiculous, especially for a party of 14 people, on a Sunday evening so it wasn't crazy busy (though still hopping, even on a Sunday!).

But let's focus on the food. They charge $1 for bread with butter and olive oil. I thought this was stupid. Tapas come to the table family style and as they are ready, which means that at any given time, you might only have one dish devoured by the 5 people in just 4 minutes, and then have to wait another 10 minutes and suddenly have 3 dishes put down. Since people order different tapas, someone who doesn't eat dairy products or red meat other diet restricted may have to wait until the next round of dishes to appear. Bread tides over the uneven timing of food for a smoother dining experience, and I don't think the restaurant should have charged the customer for it.

I didn't try the bread plate in protest of this. My first bite of food ended up being the Tortilla Espanola with nettles. I always get a tortilla as a tapa because it is one of the ways I judge a tapas restaurant. Tortillas should be firm but not too solid, and cool to room temperature but not chilled. Because this is a cold tapa, it usually comes out immediatly too, which I appreciate (especially with the lack of bread). In fact, my tortilla was passed out at the same time as the bread plate another diner ordered at my table. They were really generous with their sauces on the tortilla, and it was a chucky pie size with a creamy mayo sauce and a spicier red sauce (but not very spicy). It was a tasty start, and I wouldn't mind ordering it again to start a tapas experience again here, though definitely be prepared to share this portion! In the photo, the other side looks exactly the same but with the red sauce instead of the white, that's how big this thing was. Another diner thought the nettles would be bitter or sharp, but they added just a subtle counterpoint to the egg and potato. The fact that they can make this simple dish so outstanding is a real testament.

I did get to try two pinchos (the tortilla is actually a tapas dish, though the bread and butter/olive oil is a pincho). One was the Manchego and Paprika Fritters with spicy salsa roja. These fritters are very small- think the size of the dime. I tasted more of the friedness than the manchego and paprika, and they were timid with the salsa, sadly. Disappointing. Thankfully, at the same time these fritters arrived, so did the Griddled Bacon Wrapped Dates with warm honey. At $6 and 3 dates in the dish, you're talking about $2 a piece for a date with its bacon wrapper and drizzle of sweet honey. But, this delicious complexity of flavor is worth ordering every time.

In terms of Tapas, I tried quite a bit of different dishes, thanks to the sharing nature of my dining friends.

The passable and mediocre tapas plates: The Crab & Chicken Croquettes with samfaina were piping hot when they arrived at the table, and had good chunks of crab and chicken inside that burst as you bit in. The samfaina, the cut up vegetable sauce that came with them, could have used more juicy vegetables to compliment the croquettes as the veggies seemed a bit dry and were more like a diced vegetable side than a sauce. The Harissa Stewed Butternut Squash with crumbled sheep's cheese wasn't bad- lots of flavors on the tongue, though the texture was overall mush but tasted good- the cheese is barely there. I think an extra touch of another type of texture would have really elevated this dish. The Sauteed Spinach with pine nuts & golden raisins was unremarkable but good to add some veggies and non-battered plate to the mix. I was surprised the amount of sauteed spinach was so small- probably only a fistful, and you probably know how spinach shrinks when sauteed. When I saute spinach just for myself, I probably make twice as much just for myself (usually two handfuls).

The Oxtail Croquettes with spice roasted chili mayonnaise- you end up with 3 croquettes for $14. The flavor is good, very savory and rich, but there is another beef dish which you would get better bang for your taste, and value for your stomach portion-wise, for the same price: the House Smoked Coppa Steak with olive oil poached potatoes, chopped olives & salbitxada. I only had a little bite of this steak that was the entire length of a palm, and you didn't even need the rest of the sides because the steak itself was so full of flavor. It's like a whole entree, for the same $14 price that you would have gotten the below oxtail croquettes.

The really amazing tapas plates: The House Smoked Coppa Steak I mentioned previously that has steak that is so good just plain and on its own,, and the Tortilla (as well as those bacon wrapped dates). Also, the Spicy Octopus & Prawn Stew was crazy good. It's actually so much flavor packed into a single spoonful that I don't know how you can finish a bowl by yourself and not have your tastebuds be numb from overstimulation. At first acquaintance on your tongue, you taste the vegetables, and then the seafood blossoms flavorfully until you rae kicked by the spicy heat at the end. And that's the experience with every single spoonful. Wow.

Although my review sounds mixed above, I really do think they have a lot of success with their flavor profiles, though there was also a bit more grease then I liked. I definitely would not recommend having so many fritters and croquettes no matter how good they sound in the description as it is a bit overwhelming. The dishes I highlighted are truly amazing, and I admit I have been spoiled by tapas in Chicago at Cafe Iberico and Cafe BaBaReeba, but Toro Bravo definitely is a cut above that. One thing I should also note is that I didn't notice anyone ordering paella at all here, nor sangria pitchers, which would have been the course in Chicago. I think that at the heart of it, they are very like what you would expect if you had tapas in Spain, and so expecting 100% perfection on what is essentially drinking food is holding it to a high standard.  I guess I'll have to drink more next time 🙂

Next door to Toro Bravo is this adorable little bar with little bites called The Secret Society. They have lots of wonderful drinks and a few teeny bites to tide you over- we went here for the after the bill paying fiasco for a little breather, and it was lovely. I didn't try any bites except for one cheese straw to go along with my brandy champagne cocktail, but the cheese straw was a tasty morsel to go with the even tastier drink that packed a surprise punch. If you do find yourself coming to Toro Bravo, make sure you stop here afterwards to unwind from the more hectic atmosphere of Toro Bravo.