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MOD space re-opened as del Toro

MOD space re-opened as del Toro
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  • MOD space re-opened as del Toro

    Post #1 - November 18th, 2005, 7:23 am
    Post #1 - November 18th, 2005, 7:23 am Post #1 - November 18th, 2005, 7:23 am
    Several weeks ago, in discussion of Romeo Romeo in Wicker Park, there was speculation about the old MOD space. I'm a bit wary of the food -- why is a modern twist "requisite"? -- and the concept ("marries rustic Spanish style" with Euro-hipster vibe) based solely on the description, but I'm sure it'll do good business.

    From Daily Candy e-mail:
    When MOD closed last summer they promised a new resto in no time. And we all thought the same thing: bull.

    Turns out, we were right. The place reopened last night as del Toro (the bull), a Spanish-style, small-plate eatery. Resto superstar Terry Alexander (Mia Francesca’s, Sonotheque, MOD) is still at the helm, this time joined by nightlife baby genius Chris Dexter (Elm Street Liquors, Spoon, Goodbar).

    One-name designer Suhail transformed the former Jetson-like space into a lounge/restaurant that marries rustic Spanish style with a sultry, Euro hangout — complete with mosaic tiles, undulating ceilings, rich fabrics, and a none-too-ambiguous nod to bulls and matadors.

    Executive chef Andrew Zimmerman is back , freshly inspired from his stint gallivanting across Spain. Del Toro’s menu is divided into traditional cold and hot plates with the requisite modern twist: pumpkin goat cheese croquettas, braised bacon with caramelized endive and smoked sea salt, and patatas bravas (fried potatoes painstakingly presented with spicy tomato sauce and aioli).

    Expect to find a stampede (har, har) clamoring to get in to eat, drink, or just hang out.

    Sorry, only parties of six or more will be able to score a reservation.

    Yeah, we know. That’s a total load of bull.


    Del Toro, 1520 North Damen Avenue, at North Avenue (773-252-1500).
  • Post #2 - November 18th, 2005, 1:28 pm
    Post #2 - November 18th, 2005, 1:28 pm Post #2 - November 18th, 2005, 1:28 pm
    We have plans to go there tomorrow night with some friends. Will report back...
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #3 - November 19th, 2005, 11:00 pm
    Post #3 - November 19th, 2005, 11:00 pm Post #3 - November 19th, 2005, 11:00 pm
    I visited del Toro last night with two friends.

    To the best of my (booze-addled) recollection our meal consisted of the following selections:

    Crudo -- Mealy-textured with an off-odour.

    Patatas Bravas -- Poorly conceived and even more poorly prepared.

    Sweet Potato Croquetas -- Cute little mouthfuls of gummy, flavourless paste.

    Roasted Beet Salad -- Decent but unremarkable.

    Bruschetta with Chicken Livers and Smoked Bacon -- I am not a fan of chicken livers, but my dining companions were impressed.

    Fried Shishito Peppers -- Basic. Fine.

    Veal Medallions -- Whoa. Ephemeral. Ethereal. Heavenly.

    Pork Belly with Braised Endive -- See the above.

    Duck Leg with Orange Segments and Green Olives -- Dry, with very little character.

    Monkfish Filet with Romesco Sauce -- Properly fired but overly salty and otherwise bland.

    Lentils with Chorizo, Morcilla, and Migas -- Nice. Modest. A personal favourite.

    The damage?

    With one $9 glass of wine our bill came to $120 before tip.*

    The verdict?

    Food: There were a few stunners in our lineup, but we were lukewarm on the meal overall.**

    Etc: I will leave all of my issues with the built environment aside.*** And, I predict lots of bitching about portion sizes. :twisted:

    del Toro
    1520 N. Damen
    773.252.1500.

    E.M.

    * We cleared a bar tab before being seated. With two cocktails each, our bar tab came to $60.

    ** Yes, I know that the place is only two days old. To be fair, we will return for a second pass soon enough.

    *** Snapping on Suhail is just too easy. But, Terry, for real, Brah, I wish that you would consider alternatives next time. ;)
  • Post #4 - November 20th, 2005, 12:43 pm
    Post #4 - November 20th, 2005, 12:43 pm Post #4 - November 20th, 2005, 12:43 pm
    I went to del Toro last night with a friend. We got there very early, right at 6pm and sat at the bar. We each had two glasses of Cava, and we shared 5 tapas and one dessert. Our bill came to about $84, and we were definitely full (and slightly tipsy) when we left.

    We had:

    octopus terrine with a small chickpea/red onion salad, which was tasty with a nice texture. (the terrine, I mean)

    two squids stuffed with home-made chorizo in a squid ink sauce. The squids were tender with a pleasantly "al dente" quality, and the chorizo was mildly spiced but still good.

    the rosemary-roasted chicken liver bruschetta, with manchego cheese, thick smoked bacon and a sweet onion chutney. HUGE portion for $6: three pieces of bread loaded high with chunks of chicken liver, very nicely prepared.

    roast beet salad served with crumbled goat cheese and an anise vinaigrette. I love beets, and while this dish was fairly simple, I thought that it was done really well, with the taste of anise adding an interesting note without being overpowering.

    monkfish in a romanesco sauce made with ground almonds, ancho chilis, tomatoes and roasted garlic. I thought that the monkfish was very nicely done, with a slight "crust" on the outside, and tender and flakey inside, with that hint of chewiness that makes some people call monkfish "poor man's lobster". (by the way, don't look at a photo of a monkfish before you eat one--it's a nasty-looking beast!) The sauce was on the mild side, but I liked the way the flavors came together, and the almonds and roasted garlic counteracted the potential bitterness of the anchos.

    The dessert was a dense chocolate "terrine" (I can't remember what they called it on the menu) with an incredibly velvety ice cream drizzled with salted caramel. Delicious. I can't remember what the flavor of the ice cream was (I blame the Cava), but I could have eaten about a gallon of it, in spite of that fact that I was quite full already.

    We were very happy with our meal, and were surprised at the low price of many of the tapas. Our four glasses of Cava were $32, so the food portion of our bill was about $52 (including tax) for five savory dishes and one dessert, and the portions were pretty decent, especially the bruschetta. We didn't see the full wine list, but the wines-by-the-glass were mostly $6.

    Overall we really enjoyed ourselves, and I think we were pretty lucky in our menu choices, not to mention that we were there early enough that we got to so some pretty good people watching as the dinner crowd came pouring in. Lots of Trixies, if you know what I mean, and I think you do!

    I pretty much agree with Erik M. about the decor. Suhail's work would be more impressive if you haven't seen the same thing about a dozen times before. Undulation can be a good thing in moderation...

    ETA: mustn't...forget...bacon...
  • Post #5 - November 20th, 2005, 1:52 pm
    Post #5 - November 20th, 2005, 1:52 pm Post #5 - November 20th, 2005, 1:52 pm
    We got there 8:30 Sat night with 4 people and it was packed. Wall to wall. We snagged a table in the lounge after about 20 mins - they need to make the lounge more conducive to eating, as they are touting it as a place to eat (though there was a couple that were practically having sex at the chair next to us, so I guess it's conducive to something...).

    In fact, I think they need to make the whole thing more loungey. People weren't eating dinner at the tables, they were staying for hours chatting over small amounts of food and drinks. I predict prices will go up or they will lose money. We had a bar tab, which I don't remember how much. At the lounge table we got a bottle of cava and a bunch of tapas. I don't remember all, we were pretty impressed, though portions were very small, even for tapas. We particularly enjoyed the pork belly/bacon, the veal, the cured lomo pork ham. I don't think the servers expected to be going back and forth so much. Most groups seemed to order a few things, eat, order a few more, eat. They really need to put a bottle list together, too, though you can order any wine on their list by the bottle, you don't know the cost (multiply by 4? 5?). Anyway, for 4 people our tab was $100 at the lounge. We still had room for dessert, but decided to go to Hot Chocolate for that. Yum :)

    We'll be back on a week night, when hopefully it's less packed!
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #6 - December 6th, 2005, 2:32 pm
    Post #6 - December 6th, 2005, 2:32 pm Post #6 - December 6th, 2005, 2:32 pm
    I paid del Toro another visit, Sunday evening, and left much happier this time.

    Highlights on this visit included:

    Crudo -- An exceptional treatment.*

    Bruschetta with Sliced Avocado and White Anchovies -- Simple. Simply delicious.

    Grilled Artichoke -- Work richly rewarded.

    Veal Medallions -- Once again. Compulsory, IMO.

    Lentils with Chorizo, Morcilla, and Migas -- Once again. It remains a favourite.

    E.M.

    * This evening's crudo offering was a sliced scallop. The paper thin slices of scallop were very lightly dressed with a lemon/saffron emulsion and topped with pepper cress.
  • Post #7 - March 18th, 2006, 10:33 am
    Post #7 - March 18th, 2006, 10:33 am Post #7 - March 18th, 2006, 10:33 am
    I paid Del Toro yet another visit, Thursday night.

    Highlights on this visit included:

    Lomo Embuchado*

    Octopus Terrine

    Fritura Mixta**

    E.M.

    * Thinly sliced paprika-cured pork loin.

    ** Lightly battered and fried shrimp, squid, smelt, and lemon.
  • Post #8 - March 27th, 2006, 12:24 pm
    Post #8 - March 27th, 2006, 12:24 pm Post #8 - March 27th, 2006, 12:24 pm
    We took some out-of-towners to Del Toro Friday, and the experience has raised a question that LTHers surely have an opinion on.

    (The food, incidentally, was okay to great. No stinkers, although the olives were kind of mushy. The chorizo-stuffed calamari in squid ink is incredible. I also liked the fritura mixta--a mix of fried fish/seafood and a lively fried lemon. Yum. The mission figs and ice cream for dessert...excellent.)

    On to the situation: We had a late reservation, at 9:15, and arrived on time to the very crowded, very loud restaurant. We were expecting the mob scene, so no surprises there. When we checked in with the host, she told us they were a bit backed up, so there would be a wait. Again, no big surprise or disappointment. We were well-lubed from a round of cocktails at Silver Palm. So we staked out some territory at the bar and waited. And waited. Fortunately, our friends were so enamored with the sequined tube top scene going on around them, they barely noticed. But still, we waited. We were finally seated around 10:15, with some tepid apologies about the wait.

    I knew what we were getting into, so the wait didn't really bother me. But at what point should the restaurant comp a round of drinks or an appetizer? How long should you wait, despite a reservation, before you can expect some kind of mea culpa in the form of comestibles from the restaurant?

    I'm pretty sure we got squat because 1) they clearly aren't worried about repeat business and 2) our friends were of the older and hayseedier variety, and not exactly their target clientele.

    In this situation, would you (nicely) kvetch to the host or your waiter? How do you drop those "We deserve a freebie for the hassle" vibes?
  • Post #9 - March 27th, 2006, 1:53 pm
    Post #9 - March 27th, 2006, 1:53 pm Post #9 - March 27th, 2006, 1:53 pm
    I had brunch there a couple weeks ago and it was just OK. I had the "Spanish Croissant", which was basically just a Burger King croissandwich w/ a very thin slice of serrano ham. The potatoes were lukewarm at best.

    It just reaffirms my belief that hipster places can't do brunch w/o screwing it up. Skip it.
  • Post #10 - March 27th, 2006, 9:33 pm
    Post #10 - March 27th, 2006, 9:33 pm Post #10 - March 27th, 2006, 9:33 pm
    I don't think you should have to wait more than 1/2 hour past your reservation time without them offering something... an appetizer is an easy and inexpensive route for a restaurant, especially for group of 4, where (alternately) a round of drinks would run around $40-60 retail, from what I've heard of this place.

    They should have comped you something - and though I'm not the type to make a stink about stuff like that, I might have been tempted to, if only because I would be a bit annoyed about their "tepid" response.

    I should probably also specify that if you go into a restaurant without a reservation, and they say it'll be 2 hours and it's 2-1/2 or whatever, that's a different story. It's your fault you didn't call ahead ... However, you make a reservation with certain expectations of being somewhat on time. If they can't fulfill that in a reasonable time (in my mind, 1/2 hour or so), they should offer something ... they need to improve the way they book their reservations.

    Unfortunately, [I feel] many of these 'hipster' restaurants have this attitude that because they're popular, stuff like this does not matter as much... but perhaps I'm just being cynical.

    In response to how to convey this to the host, usually, I just kindly ask to see a manager, and politely mention that you waited over an hour past your reservation time ... is there anything they might do for you? If the management is smart enough to realize that bad word of mouth is bad no matter WHERE or WHOM it comes from, they should quickly offer something (most likely in the form of a free appetizer or dessert). Just don't forget to include that in when considering what to tip your server; as it's not their fault.

    (sorry for being so wordy, I kept thinking of more things to mention... )
  • Post #11 - March 29th, 2006, 6:43 pm
    Post #11 - March 29th, 2006, 6:43 pm Post #11 - March 29th, 2006, 6:43 pm
    They take reservations now?
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #12 - March 30th, 2006, 8:11 am
    Post #12 - March 30th, 2006, 8:11 am Post #12 - March 30th, 2006, 8:11 am
    They took the reservation when I called, so I assume so. Maybe that was the problem?

    Nearly a week has passed since the Del Toro experience, and I can say that despite the wait and their lack of effort to make up for the wait, I don't harbor any bad feelings about it. Just be prepared for it. Don't go starving, and have a few cocktails somewhere else beforehand.
  • Post #13 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:53 am
    Post #13 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:53 am Post #13 - April 2nd, 2006, 8:53 am
    made it to del Toro for an early dinner (6:30ish pm...). Overall it was OK, but nothing remarkable. I wish I would've read this thread before going :( ... We didn't have reservations, we were just kinda driving around and decided to go here. But we had no problem getting a table right away (place was half empty).

    The space is divided into three areas... the bar, the dining area, then a little lounge area where there are small tables/comfortable chairs. The lounge area looked perfect for having drinks and a small dinner. Not noticing the choice when we walked in, we ended up at a regular table.

    Some of the things we had...

    Roasted Shishito Peppers.. Simple dish, peppers tossed in white wine and lightly grilled.. Then tossed in sea salt. Apparently this is a popular Spanish snack. Was suprisingly good. Portion size was relatively huge.

    Mussels -- Good, average. Nothing unusual here.

    Lomo Embuchado -- Cured pork loin -- looked a lot like proscuitto slices with some sort of cheese topping (cold, not melted). Very good.

    Roasted Beet Salad - Very good, given what it is.

    Veal Stuffed Special (Stuffed with Spinach apples, not sure what else). I waitor said the veal item on the menu was very good, but kind of heavy and wintery. Apparently this was the Spring version they're testing to replace it. It was just OK. The taste was good, the texture to me was a little off... Kind of mushy, could've used something crispy IMO.

    Grilled calamari stuffed with chorizo with squid ink vinegarette. The two calamari was huge (they closely resembled in size those huge stuffed pasta shells) ... It was OK but it just didn't do it for me. perhaps the victim of ordering it and being hungry enough to eat it all.

    For dessert we had a figs and ice cream. Figs were very nice, I think tossed in some sort of vinegarette...

    The portion size of these tapas items is actually quite large, if you ask me. Most things could easily be shared with 3 or 4 people, and for 2 its almost too much.

    The service was good to bad... With a few tweaks the service would have been outstanding... But.. The waitor we had was really nice, but unforgivingly cheesey. He actually introduced the specials (btw, only after us asking him if there were any) by saying "there are 3 doors to choose from" ... 'door #1 tonight is foo, door #2 foo foo, and door #3 foo foo foo' ... Then he kept saying "I'll make it happen!" ... The bus boy was very nice, but almost too nice. while it was nice that he kept promptly clearing our plates, he got kind of pushy trying to get us to order more drinks ... I actually got a "aww come on, why not?" from him when I didn't want to order the same drink again (I was ready to switch and wanted to ask the waitor--not the bus boy--a question).

    We ordered digestive and espresso at the same time we ordered dessert... our drinks came, no dessert... they laid the silverware out like it was coming... several minutes later (ok 20 minutes..), our drinks were finished and dessert was still nowhere to be found. we asked our waitor for our check and to just cancel the dessert. He soon came with both the check and the dessert... he had comped the dessert saying "it shouldn't take this long for dessert this early in the night..." ..

    Tab with dinner and 3-4 rounds of drinks for 2 was $111 (actual total was $118 before the comped dessert). Not bad.

    So overall Del Toro was OK. It has all the makings to be great, but misses the mark on just about everything. I'd go back, but maybe only for drinks and a tapas plate or two.
  • Post #14 - April 2nd, 2006, 9:31 am
    Post #14 - April 2nd, 2006, 9:31 am Post #14 - April 2nd, 2006, 9:31 am
    an hr past a reservation time is unacceptable, poor business and can't help but cause hard feelings. something should have been done on your behalf by the management. after all, actual food/drink costs are a fraction of what you are charged. generally @ least a third and often times less. you can be a real sport in this business for a few dollars, and avoid the bad press. a shame a lot of restaurants lack common sense and forget it's a service industry that depends on word of mouth.

    a word to the hipper than thou attitudes pervasive in the industry. you're not. ever hear of "do onto others"?
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #15 - March 9th, 2007, 2:25 pm
    Post #15 - March 9th, 2007, 2:25 pm Post #15 - March 9th, 2007, 2:25 pm
    dddane wrote:So overall Del Toro was OK. It has all the makings to be great, but misses the mark on just about everything. I'd go back, but maybe only for drinks and a tapas plate or two.


    That must have been the consensus as Del Toro is closing March 18th.
    When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!
  • Post #16 - March 16th, 2007, 9:31 pm
    Post #16 - March 16th, 2007, 9:31 pm Post #16 - March 16th, 2007, 9:31 pm
    I disagree. I've had great food there. In fact I went for dinner tonight to get one last meal, because I’m genuinely going to miss Zimmerman’s food.

    In fact I would urge anyone who hasn’t been, or even those that have and were so so on it, to get there for one last meal.

    Chef Zimmerman is blowing it out this weekend. Unfettered by economic pressure and faced with having to unload a larder of ingredients, he’s featuring six specials including incredibly good house cured versions of Serrano style ham (though in all fairness it tastes more like prosciuttio) and Morcilla, or Spanish blood sausage. For dessert, there’s an excellent white wine infused french toast with bacon ice cream. That may sound weird, but the bacon ice cream features just a touch of smoke and salt. When paired with the french toast, it’s like the best bacon and french toast breakfast you’ve ever had.

    Del Toro is located at 1520 N. Damen Ave.
    MJN "AKA" Michael Nagrant
    http://www.michaelnagrant.com
  • Post #17 - March 17th, 2007, 4:00 pm
    Post #17 - March 17th, 2007, 4:00 pm Post #17 - March 17th, 2007, 4:00 pm
    I too, had some great food there at my one visit, about 3 months ago. I especially loved chef Zimmerman's stylized and delicious version of patatas bravas. Almost all of what we ate that night was terrific but admittedly, it wasn't all perfect. Still, I thought culinary focus was decidedly Spanish, via the use of authentic ingredients and that, in and of itself, made the place fairly distinctive. Service issues were not a factor for us at all. But it was a weeknight and there was neither a big crowd nor a wait for a table that night.

    I'm curious to see where chef Zimmerman pops up next. I have to say that after eating his food, unless something changes, he'll always the benefit of the doubt with me. The man can definitely cook.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #18 - March 18th, 2007, 7:41 pm
    Post #18 - March 18th, 2007, 7:41 pm Post #18 - March 18th, 2007, 7:41 pm
    Chicago Magazine's Dish has this cryptic comment:

    “Early on there were some mistakes and some unfortunate things that happened that we just couldn’t get out from under,” says chef Andrew Zimmerman. “Rather than soldiering on forever and attempting to fix it, it’s better to accept it and close it down.”


    Considering how consistent the menu and reports on it seemed to be up to the time of my one, oft-lamented visit, the only mistake or unfortunate thing I see is "serving mostly not very good food every night for several months." From the phrasing, however, that doesn't seem to be what he's getting at. Anyone have any idea what this mysterious curse that seems to have stricken Del Toro was?
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #19 - March 18th, 2007, 8:29 pm
    Post #19 - March 18th, 2007, 8:29 pm Post #19 - March 18th, 2007, 8:29 pm
    Mike G wrote:Anyone have any idea what this mysterious curse that seems to have stricken Del Toro was?


    Could it be ...

    The Curse of LTHForum.com?
    JiLS
  • Post #20 - March 19th, 2007, 1:28 pm
    Post #20 - March 19th, 2007, 1:28 pm Post #20 - March 19th, 2007, 1:28 pm
    JimInLoganSquare wrote:Could it be ...

    The Curse of LTHForum.com?


    in that case, let's make a list of businesses that we want the curse applied to. i'm sure everyone has at least one....

    no really... :) i know someone is upset over del toro going bye bye, but in wicker park there will be a new restaurant there within a few months surely.

    btw, i've noticed a lot of tapas places always have some specialty potato, patatas bravas this or that... some places have a garlic potato version... which is understandable since it's part of the cuisine, but why are they so highly touted? more often than not i don't seem to find them to be anything too spectacular or special from the next tapas place. what's with that?
  • Post #21 - March 19th, 2007, 2:18 pm
    Post #21 - March 19th, 2007, 2:18 pm Post #21 - March 19th, 2007, 2:18 pm
    dddane wrote:btw, i've noticed a lot of tapas places always have some specialty potato, patatas bravas this or that... some places have a garlic potato version... which is understandable since it's part of the cuisine, but why are they so highly touted? more often than not i don't seem to find them to be anything too spectacular or special from the next tapas place. what's with that?

    I can't speak to the other renditions in town but Del Toro's were really delicious. They started with a small cylinder of potato (maybe 2" high and about 1" in diameter) which was hollowed out to form a little cup. From there, the cylinders were deep-fried until crispy and then salted. Inside the hollowed out section went a great version of Romesco sauce and then the entire unit was topped off with a decorative dollup of alioli. They were one-biters that were so good, the 3 of us enjoyed 3 orders (8 pieces each) of them. I'll miss them :cry:

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

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