Torero's Piquilio Pepper Dip
Dive into one of Chef Augusto Lopez's newest offerings, Piquilio pepper dip. (Photo by: Kevin McCarthy)
I was slightly trepidatious heading to the Bottom for tapas. Though there are a few excellent dining oases there, I’ve been burned by more than my fair share; I wondered if I’d be walking into yet another bar that serves food only because it is legally required to do so. But at Torero Tapas Bar & Grill, I found good news: While there is a nice wine and cocktail list, this Shockoe spot serves food because chef Augusto Lopez clearly loves to cook it.
The classics like patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) and bocadillos (sandwiches) are present and skillfully accounted for, bolstered by the chef’s new takes like piquillo pepper dip, Brussels sprout petals in a Pedro Ximénez reduction, and chicken wing confit with brava sauce and celery shavings.
The Brussels sprout petals, which fulfill the requisite “something green” portion of the meal, pack a surprisingly nutty, tangy flavor. I always order tortilla de patatas, or Spanish omelet with potato, as a tapas litmus test; while Torero’s differs from the densely stacked wedges one finds in Spain, it’s tasty and fresh, with an accompanying paprika-chive crème fraîche so delicious it should be bottled and sold. And order the massive, olive-oil-laced veggie flatbread because that marriage of tender, shaved zucchini with sweetly spicy piquillo pepper is like a culinary romance novel.
The only detractors from the meal were elements on the $19 meat-and-cheese plate: tough lomo (cured pork tenderloin) and flavorless tetilla cheese. These hiccups aside, snag a table and methodically make your way through Torero’s smart menu offerings. And yes, there’s sangria.