Toro Bravo is Playful Spanish Food Enriched by the Bounty of the Pacific Northwest

You can trace the padron pepper trend to John Gorham and Toro Bravo, our 2007 Restaurant of the Year.

Believe it or not, there was a time when the padron pepper was somewhat exotic in these parts. Why is it now on half the menus in town? You can trace the trend to John Gorham and Toro Bravo, our 2007 Restaurant of the Year. The always-busy tapas joint was groundbreaking a decade ago. Now, not so much—but it's still among the best.

Related: Toro Bravo Is Our 2007 Restaurant of the Year

The menu is organized into sections by size, starting with single-bite "kisses," like a deconstructed Spanish olive ($2) whose flavor increases exponentially in your mouth, and growing up to heftier raciones. It's playful Spanish cuisine as created by the bounty of the Pacific Northwest—grilled sweet corn ($7) is smothered in verdant cilantro pesto, earthy-sweet duck liver mousse ($8) and the house-smoked coppa steak with crispy confit potatoes, cracked olives and caramelized onions ($21). That coppa steak is Gorham's own innovation and has gone on to become a local legend. It starts with an obscure and inexpensive cut otherwise known as a "chuck-eye roast" that's dry-aged, wet-aged and smoked to render it tender inside and crusty outside. Why isn't it on half the menus in town? Because it's a lot harder to get right than pan-fried Spanish peppers.

Related: The Toro Bravo Coppa Steak Is One of the 12 Wonders of Portland Food

(Nashco) (Nashco)

Eat: The chef's choice tasting menu ($40 per person) is a parade of surprises.

Drink: Gin and tonics are having a moment in Spain and Toro Bravo is on board with four interpretations. Try the Aviation with fennel tonic, orgeat, Spanish bitters and lemon ($12).

Most popular dish: The Valencian paella with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, clams and mussels. It doesn't get much more Spanish than this.

Noise level: 79/100. It's always busy, and the atmosphere is jovial.

Expected wait: Reservations are limited to larger parties on select days. Expect a wait of at least 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Who you'll eat with: Boisterous groups of celebrating 30- and 40-somethings, and dignified older gentlemen sitting at the bar alone with a glass of sherry.

Year opened: 2007

(Nashco) (Nashco)

120 NE Russell St., 503-281-4464, 5-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $-$$$.


The 2016 Restaurant Guide

Welcome to the 2016 Restaurant Guide

Paiche Is Our 2016 Restaurant of the Year

The 50 Best Restaurants in Portland | How We Ranked Them

Hat Yai Is the 2016 Pop-In of the Year | Mae Is the 2016 Pop-Up of the Year

Poke Mon Is the 2016 Pop-In of the Year Runner-Up | JolieLaide Is the 2016 Pop-Up of the Year Runner-Up

Portland's 10 Best Pop-Ups and Supper Clubs | Our 10 Favorite Counter Service Restaurants

Soup Houses | Seafood Spots | Italian Spots | Best Pizza Pies | Southern Food | Best Steaks, Chops And Charcuterie |Mexican Places | Sushi Spots | Korean Food | Chinese Food | Mediterranean Restaurants | Where to Get Coffee Cocktails After Your Meal

Willamette Week

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.