We know them as tapas, but in Spain—especially in Basque Country, home to chef Javier Gutierrez of Toros Spanish Kitchen—they’re also called pintxos. (Say “pin-shows”.)
Gutierrez is the chef at the new Toros Spanish Kitchen in Summerlin, hard by a bar/restaurant called John Cutter’s, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner along with a menu of Mexican and American comfort foods. Toros specializes in pintxos, as well as fare such as ham croquets and pil-pil shrimp. There is also a menu of paellas, saffron-scented rice casseroles cooked in double-handled iron pans.
Both places belong to Adam Corrigan, from the family that started Roadrunner, Sedona and several other local restaurants. And if the atmosphere at Toros seems a touch familiar, blame it on those vaguely Aztec-looking light fixtures hanging overhead. They once hung in the late, lamented Agave, his brothers’ now-shuttered Mexican joint in the ’hood.
This is a spacious, freestanding spot, located in a new development that brushes up against the mountains just west of Interstate 215 at Charleston Boulevard. The walls are recovered barn wood, and there is a black-and-white silhouette painting of a toro (Spanish for bull) charging an imaginary matador. Seating is at booths or high-top tables, which I personally abhor. John Cutter’s next door also has lots of high-tops. I don’t get it.
The good news is that much of the menu is a celebration of Spanish food and culture. The chef has real chops—just taste his orange-tinted Romesco sauce that accompanies lamb chops, grainy with ground almond and hazelnut. Gutierrez makes dishes from all over the Iberian peninsula. From Catalonia, there is paella. From the Sierras in the west of Spain, the famous dry-cured Serrano ham and Manchego cheese are featured. And from his native Basque region, there is chistorra (a delicious sausage) and crabmeat-stuffed piquillo peppers, one of the chef’s signatures. Wines, too, span the nation on a short-but-sweet list that offers $35 Spanish wines such as tempranillo and garnacha by Paco, La Rioja and similar producers.
Anyone familiar with Spanish restaurants such as Jaleo or Julian Serrano should find Toros’ price point a pleasant surprise. The quality is comparable to what you get on the Strip and is superior to the other local tapas restaurants. Gutierrez plays it safe, though. If you’re looking for creativity, there isn’t much here. This is classic fare, done by a pro.
I love the ham croquettes, though they are impossibly rich, because Gutierrez uses more Béchamel sauce than the other chefs around here. That means they’ll fall apart when you try to dip them in an accompanying tomato puree. Boquerones (anchovies from Spain) are nothing like the briny, fishy ones from a can. They’re snow-white, and the chef plates them artfully with a green herb-tinged olive oil on sliced red pepper.
Those stuffed piquillo peppers are conical, with a creamy crab and cream-cheese filling that oozes out when the peppers are cut. We chose paella negra, composed of rice blackened by squid ink and chock-full of squid, shrimp, crabmeat and peas. For those of you who like the crusty rice on the pan surface known as socorrat, the ink makes the rice moister, so sorry, no crust.
For dessert, there is a tasty bread pudding and arroz con leche—a silky rice pudding topped with cinnamon—so that paella fans can have their rice and eat it, twice.
Toros Spanish Kitchen & Gaming
11760 W. Charleston Blvd., 901-4100. Open 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily. Dinner for two, $39-$66.