For more than a decade, Toro Bravo has set the standard for Spanish cuisine in Portland. John Gorham made his name here and has since developed a mini-empire that includes Tasty n Sons, Tasty n Alder, Mediterranean Exploration Company and two outposts of both Shalom Y'All and Bless Your Heart Burgers. Somehow, despite having all those plates in the air, Gorham has ensured that his flagship maintains the quality that earned Toro Bravo WW 's Restaurant of the Year honors in 2007.
The only problem with the long list of tapas that Gorham's protégé, chef Pat Manning, has on the menu is you can't eat everything. The smallest items, such as the "Northwest Kiss," a divine pairing of smoked trout, potato cream and chives ($5), offer a distillation of earthy flavors. Larger selections, such as the gran charcuteria board ($22), display Toro Bravo's wizardry with pork products of dizzying variety. The grassy taste of lamb ($20), tender as a baby's breath, comes alive with a yogurt harissa sauce, and the briny vibrancy of the sea washes across octopus in green romesco ($19), along with fried-to-perfection anchovies paired with fennel and lemon ($12).
Pro tip: Even in the Salt & Straw era, cheese ice cream ($8) might sound strange. But this deconstructed version of the simplest of desserts will leave you crying for more.