Saturday, June 10, 2017

Foodie Field Trip- Blu Toro Cantina and Grill

It's another hot hot hot Saturday in Des Moines, and it's only June. Ugh. So hot that I abandoned my idea of going to the farmers market downtown- not feeling like battling a hot and sweaty crowd- and the Greek Food Festival was off the table. The Chef has to work and that was something he and I would have enjoyed together. Maybe tomorrow, right? Jessica, one of my very best friends, and I decided we should find something fun to do so we decided to go grab some dinner. Like always we had trouble deciding where to go, but I have a new secret weapon. Remember those tiny spiral notebooks you could carry in your purse or pocket? Yep, I went totally low tech. I've had a list on my computer, but who carries their computer around? Had a smaller list on my phone but didn't keep up with it. So the notebook just makes sense. I can write the name and address of each restaurant I want to check out, along with notes- what other people recommend, what their specialty is, if they have brunch, what the style of cuisine is, important info like that. We narrowed our choices and settled on someplace neither of had been before- Blu Toro Cantina and Grill. Blu Toro is somewhat new to the city, opening as a new upscale Mexican restaurant.

Walking into the restaurant is like stepping into a shishi Beverly Hills or Los Angeles eatery. The space is gorgeous. Sleek lines, contemporary furniture and that trendy open kitchen add to that first impression. The bar is just of the dining room and features a large open wall, open to the outside patio. Handcrafted cocktails are the new thing, and Blu Toro is on top of the cocktail game. The margarita options alone are impressive. Chili Mango Margarita? Yes, please! Of course tequila is the real king here and the selection is impressive. Several options for tequila flights are available too. I was tempted, but I was really in a wine mood, as was Jessica, so we ordered four different wines. Acrobat Pinot Gris, Lagosta Vinho Verde, Piccini Memoro Rose, and Bodega Colome Torrontes. Each wine brought something different to the meal. The Pinot Gris was fresh and crisp and absolutely delightful. The Vinho Verde was fruity and green. If you like Vinho Verde you'll understand the green thing. It has aromas of citrus and freshly cut grass. It's The Rose was Jessica's favorite and the one she went back to when we ordered dessert. The winner for me that night was the Torrontes, and I enjoyed this one so much I had another! Fruity, not too sweet and with a flinty aroma it was lovely with my tart and sweet dessert. More on that later.

The dinner menu is amazing. You'll see some familiar things featured- quesadillas, fajitas, enchiladas, but they're not the everyday Mexican recipes. Upscale ingredients and expert preparation makes these dishes not only delicious but beautiful. Steaks, seafood, chicken and pork entrees have expertly crafted Mexican flavors throughout, the pork chops are prepared al pastor style, one of my favorit Mexican foods ever. Slow braised short ribs are draped in poblano cream sauce, steaks get the Toro treatment, scallops, halibut and salmon all get their own Mexican flavors. For dinner we again ordered several different tacos. Jessica chose three different street tacos- beef barbacoa, carne asada and chicken tinga. My two tacos were lobster and chicken tinga, with some beautiful and huge asparagus spears as a side. 

First, the beef barbacoa. Tender, flavorful and delicious. The carne asada was every bit as delicious. We both chose chicken tinga for one of our tacos. The tinga is made with chicken thighs, and I'm so glad they were. Chicken thighs are so much tastier than chicken breast and you would have to cook the life out of it to dry it out. The chicken tinga was expertly flavored and the little pile of shredded radish and a lime wedge was the perfect accompaniment to all three taco choices.

Now, the only other time I have had a lobster taco was in Galveston. It was delicious, but it was more like a Mexican version of the lobster roll- cold chunks of lobster meat in a mayo based sauce served with shredded lettuce in a flour tortilla. It was good. Didn't wow me. That taco pales in comparison to the lobster taco I enjoyed at Blu Toro. Big chunks of lobster, including claw meat on corn tortillas, crunchy shredded cabbage and a lovely spicy crema. The chunks of lobster meat were so big I had to cut them up! Honestly, this is one of the best things I have eaten in a long time.

We sneaked a peek at the dessert menu before we ordered dinner so we knew we needed to number one, save room, and number two, which wine to have with it. We had already made our wine decisions, so now it was all about dessert. Ever since we got here Jessica has had her heart set on the Tres Leches Cupcake. The cupcake arrived  topped with a cloud of fluffy whipped cream and grated chocolate. Inside the cupcake was a layer of dulce de leche. The flavors were awesome and the cake itself tasted good, but it was just a touch dry. A couple minutes less oven time, or a more thorough soaking in the caramel before serving and this would be spectacular. Jessica had the Rose with her dessert and it was a great match for the rich and creamy cake.

I chose the lime tart. It was out of this world. The lime curd was tart and absolutely smooth. The crust on the bottom was still crisp and had absolutely no sogginess at all. The tart was topped with a beautiful swirl or meringue that was torched to browned perfection. I swear I'm going to get the recipe come hell or high water! I had the Torrontes with my dessert and it was the perfect accompaniment. 

Our server was great. We had never been there before, so we had menu questions, and she had answers. She not only knew the dinner menu but she also knew every wine on the drinks menu and recommended wines based on the different dinner selections. The chef. Josh, came out to visit with us too. The entire staff was friendly, professional and very welcoming. Overall the experience was one of the best I've had in this city in quite some time. I hope to visit Blu Toro many more times in the future. I highly recommend it when you're looking for someplace new in Des Moines.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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