Flavors of Barcelona

Since The Orlando Eye opened in May, the I-Drive 360 complex has steadily come to life with shops, attractions and restaurants sprouting up throughout. Some are chains while others, like Tapa Toro, are home grown.

Owners Vassilis and Katerina Coumbaros, who are also the minds behind local Greek favorite Taverna Opa at Pointe Orlando, opened Tapa Toro this summer to bring a Spanish flair to International Drive. The interior was designed with a Barcelona feel, incorporating bold details like black and red curtains created with material used for flamenco dresses, Salvador Dali paintings and other works of art straight from Spain.

Don’t be surprised when the paintings on the walls come to life throughout your meal. The idea of moving artwork adds a contemporary feel to classic pieces. More movement comes in the form of flamenco dancing. Nightly, beginning at 7 p.m., a flamenco dancer in authentic costume stomps and twirls around the dining room. She may even invite you to join her.

When you think of Spanish cuisine, two items typically come to mind: tapas and paella. And Tapa Toro has both. With Executive Chef Wendy Lopez steering the ship, cold and hot tapas, family-style paella and a variety of Spanish-inspired entrees hit the table like clockwork. An open kitchen brings diners into the process, allowing them to see the chefs in action.

Cold tapas options include Embutidos, a tasting platter that allows you to build multiple bites to suit your tastes. With three types of meat – jamon serrano, lomo and chorizo – along with pickled mustard seeds, house-pickled vegetables, chicken pate and toasted bread, no two bites has to be the same. You can also go the soup or salad route with Ensalada de Remolacha with roasted beets, candy cane beets, Florida oranges, grapefruit, goat cheese espuma and a drizzle of lemon dressing; or the chilled Gazpacho Tapa Toro with vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, sherry gelee and olive oil.

The Tapas Calientes (or hot tapas) options are many and varied. Meat lovers will enjoy the Kurobuta Tocino, pork belly that is braised in tomato aromatics before it hits the fryer, leaving it nice and crispy. The saltiness of the pork is balanced with the sweetness of a carrot puree and a drizzle of local honey. Croquetas de Jamon is a fried potato and ham mixture that includes chives, manchego cheese and a side of garlic aioli for dipping. Add veggies to the mix with the Colifor de Leon, roasted cauliflower with pea puree, capers and pickled sultanas, which add a pop of sweetness, much like a golden raisin. The Popurri de Setas is another vegetarian specialty that includes oyster, cremini, white and shitake mushrooms mixed with roasted garlic, thyme, truffle espuma and olive oil.

Make sure you plan to indulge in one of the family-style paella options, which is a Tapa Toro specialty. Vegetarian, seafood and meat varieties complete the list and each are made to serve three to four people. The Mariscos option combines clams, shrimp, mussels and chorizo with peas, pimento, onion, red pepper, saffron and lemon. Diners who have a front row seat at the paella pit will see that Chef Lopez uses a thin, hot pan to form the crispy layer of rice at the bottom, along with fresh ingredients that bring an earthiness to the dish. When you order the paella, be patient, as it requires a longer cooking time to get it just right.

Pair your meal with a beverage from the bar. The traditional Sangria with red wine is the perfect choice for a true Spanish experience, while the Gin and Tonic is anything but ordinary with smoked clementine, basil, black currants and red pepper corn as a garnish. Also be sure to end it on a sweet note with the Crema Catalina, an authentic creme-brulee-like dessert that gives a nod to Florida with an orange cream.

Tapa Toro is still fairly new to Orlando’s dining scene, but the background of the local owners combined with the culinary knowledge of the chef takes diners on a trip to Spain with every bite. And since the free parking garage at I-Drive 360 is easily accessed through Universal Boulevard, locals can avoid the tourist traffic and go on a stress-free culinary adventure.


What do you think?

385 points
Upvote Downvote
Avatar Super Influencer

Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

Frequent UserContent AuthorVerified User

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *