This is the first of a new series of video reviews in partnership with WFTV and Inside Central Florida. Vidoegraphy by Zack Schwartz; still photos by Shelly Caran. For more, visit icFlorida.com.
Tapa Toro, the Spanish restaurant under ICON Orlando, or whatever the Ferris wheel is being called these days, is now three years old. Wendy Lopez, who opened the restaurant as its executive chef, left late last year to accept a job to lead the kitchen at Reyes Mezcalaria. Frank Galeano was named to replace her. I returned to Tapa Toro recently to see what changes Galeano has put in place.
His menu tweaks include lighter and more healthful entries and a focus on more regional Spanish dishes. Watch the video or continue reading.
We started our Tasting Table experience with Pan con Tomate, a traditional snack of rustic bread toasts smeared with tomatoes and olive oil, boosted a bit above the ordinary with a slice of Iberian ham and white anchovies. I loved the nice bit of saltiness the anchovies added.
Galeano followed with Ensalada Valenciana, greens with shaved fennel, Peruvian potatoes, Valencia oranges, green olives and a mint-orange dressing. Fresh and vibrant flavors.
Pulpo a la Plancha featured beautifully crisped octopus with an eggplant puree and spiced yogurt. The charred flavors of the octopus and eggplant were very nice.
Piquillos Rellenos were mild peppers stuffed with spiced ground Moroccan lamb and topped with preserved lemon puree and cilantro-infused yogurt. The lemon gave a great burst of citrus flavor with the first bite.
While tapas are a big part of Tapa Toro’s menu, full entrees are also an option. Pollo al Xeres was a crisped confit chicken leg quarter, sugar braised and served with roasted potatoes, olives, golden raising and chewy oyster mushrooms with a sherry sauce.
Cordero al Sazón had lamb belly served with the charred eggplant puree and glazed baby carrots and olive tapenade. Lamb belly isn’t as fatty as pork belly but it still has a nice mouth-filling fat flavor.
Dessert was inspired by one Galeano’s mother used to serve him. It had braised pineapple, almond cake and coconut sorbet served together in one bowl. I loved the freshness of the pineapple.
Paellas are still a big part of the menu at Tapa Toro and the seating at the paella bar overlooking the special cooking station is still popular. Elsewhere in the dining room, large framed works of art startle diners when they seem to move, such as when a still life of oranges is disrupted by a hand stealing a piece of fruit. Add flamenco dancers in the evening and you have a fun atmosphere.
Galeano’s menu changes adhere to the traditions of Spanish cuisine and also allow him to show some creativity. But always with an emphasis on quality.
Tapa Toro is at 8441 International Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-226-2929.