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An Evening in Spain

Tapa Toro offers a culinary journey of Spanish Flavors and culture in the heart of Central Florida.

Tapa Toro is conveniently located at ICON  Park off International Drive. Opened in 2015, the restaurant  is known for its traditional Spanish cuisine that is set alongside nightly flamenco dancing.

Having traveled to Spain many times to visit relatives who call this beautiful country their home, I was excited to spend a Sunday night indulging in the authentic Spanish eats available at Tapa Toro. As we walked through the front doors, my husband and I saw a main room filled with wooden tables and an array of framed artwork on the walls, including a replica of The Clothed Maja painted by the famous Spanish artist Francisco Goya, as well as a standard bullfighting poster often seen through- out Spain in early summer. In the center of the restaurant was a 12-seat paella pit, which offers a view of the kitchen and allows a personal experience with chef Frank Galeano for which advanced reservations are required.

My husband and I chose to dine alone at a smaller table to experience the full atmosphere of the restaurant, including live flamenco dancing with performances every hour on the hour starting at 7 p.m. The only drawback for us with the entertainment was the background music in between performances  was American pop music and we would have enjoyed hearing Spanish music to keep with the overall theme.

We started our dinner by ordering a couple of cocktails. My husband chose an Iberian Gintonic ($12) made with Gin Mare’s Mediterranean Gin, Torres Orange Liqueur and Fever-Tree tonic water. I stuck with the Classic Sangria ($8 glass/$33 pitcher), which brought back fond memories of time spent at popular mesones, taverns in Spain, near Plaza Mayor in Madrid. The gin libation had a wonderful rosemary, olive and citrus flavor that made it very smooth to drink. And the sangria had the perfect blend of dry wine with a fruity flavor but not too sweet.

Tapa Toro features tapas-style dining, so we ordered up several of our favorites: Iberian Ham ($14–1 ounce/$24–2 ounces.),  Spanish Frittata ($7), Potatoes with Chorizo ($12) and Garlic Shrimp ($15). The waitress first brought out the Potatoes with Chorizo, which came in a nice-sized bowl. The potatoes were nice and crisp on the outside and the chorizo added a smoky flavor. The dish was topped with a soft fried egg, which added a pleasant creamy texture to the meal. We really enjoyed this plate and would definitely order it again.

Next to arrive at the table was Spain’s signature Iberian Ham, or Jamón Ibérico, considered  to be one of the finest hams in the world. Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed. I understand this specialty meat has to be imported, but the flavoring tasted off to both of us—like it was just removed from a package and not at all the same as what we have eaten countless times in Spain.

Spanish Frittata is a classic potato omelet found in most restaurants and bars throughout Spain, and it is traditionally kept very simple with just salt and pepper. Tapa Toro’s chef puts a twist on this dish by adding a variety of spices and topping the frittata with a garlic and olive oil aioli, which added a comforting flavor to this satisfying dish.

Lastly, we were served  the Garlic Shrimp, another common dish  served in restaurants in Spain. Our shrimp was cloaked with garlic-infused olive oil with a zesty lemon sauce. This was a very tasty dish and we used our bread slices to soak up the delicious remaining sauce and garlic slices. Our only wish was that we had a full loaf of bread to break apart rather than just a few slices.

Paella is the most popular dish to come out of Spain, which is why we chose this as our main entrée. It takes 40 minutes to prepare allowing us plenty of time to fully enjoy our tapas and the live entertainment. Tapa Toro’s  Seafood Paella dish ($45) serves two to three people and is made with calasparra rice, shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels, chorizo, onions, peppers, tomatoes, saffron, seafood consommé and peas. We were pleasantly surprised by how delicious and authentic this meal turned out, especially with how the paella included a thin layer of caramelized crunchy rice bits called socarrat that gathers on the bottom of a genuine paella pan. It is clear that this signature menu item has been perfected by Tapa Toro.

For dessert, my husband chose the Flan ($9), a sweet custard made with traditional vanilla espuma that is topped with fresh mint and caramel and served with vanilla crisps. The sumptuous desert had a rich, satiny texture.

I chose the Churros Tapa Toro ($9), a fried- dough pastry served with chocolate and caramel dipping sauce. The churros came in small bite-sized portions with a nice layering of sugar on the outside. The outside was perfectly crisp with the inside nice and tender. A great finish to a wonderful meal.

With the combination of energetic flamenco dancing and classic Spanish  cuisine,  Tapa Toro did a great job of transporting us to an evening out in Spain. We look forward to coming back with the family and taking our meal to the next level by reserving space at the 12-seat paella pit.

Tapa Toro
8441 International Drive, Suite 260 | Orlando
407-495-2336 | TapaToro.Restaurant

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s September 2019 issue.