These days, Shenzhen has so many different restaurants offering all kinds of cuisine from all over the world. You can find almost anything you desire from the more popular Italian and French restaurants to the up and coming styles from the Middle East and also South America.
One cuisine that has been conspicuous by its absence in Shenzhen, however, is Spanish food. For all the Italian pastas and Indian curries you can try, the city has been criminally short of places offering pinchos or paella. That is all about to change with the arrival of El Toro in Houhai.
Opening in the bustling hub of Houhai, El Toro is situated just beneath Coastal City. The restaurant façade stands out from the other shops with its silhouette of a stampeding bull.
Inside, the tables are decked out with dinner mats made from the red and yellow of the national flag of Spain. The bar is reminiscent of some cantina in a small town in the countryside, with a couple of plates of omelet tortilla left out to be washed down with beer from one of the three taps of draft.
Above the bar are a row of photos showcasing El Toro’s signature dishes, while the Rojigualda flags on the table double as menus. They reveal an extensive list of authentic Spanish dishes that hail from all over the country from the greenery of Galicia, through the heart of Catalonia, to the sleepy seaside towns of Valencia.
Salim, one of the restaurant’s owners, is on hand to introduce the menu. Raised in Madrid, but with family from Barcelona, there were always arguments when El Clasico was being played. Yet it also meant that Salim grew up enjoying food from both the Castile and Catalonia regions, which later saw him develop a passion for the cuisines from all over the Iberian Peninsula.
Working alongside Salim is his chef, Alejandro. With Basque roots, Alejandro arrives at El Toro having spent years working as a chef in Spanish restaurants across the world. Time spent in restaurant kitchens across Central America was followed by two years at a restaurant in Tokyo, before Salim brought him to Shenzhen to help him realize his vision.
A selection of dishes are ordered based on the recommendations from Salim, and while Alejandro prepares the meal, a jug of homemade Sangria is brought to the table and shared. The punch drink, made of wine, mixed fruits, sprite, and no small amount of vodka, is enjoyed all over the Iberian Peninsula whether it is day or night. This pitcher, prepared by Salim personally, goes down deceptively easily.
As another round of Sangria is poured, the dishes begun to arrive. The first to be presented is the Mix Salad and Garlic Shrimp. Garlic Shrimp is a favorite of the Andalusia region and is authentically and lovingly recreated here, while the Mix Salad consists of tuna resting on a bed of the freshest tomato and crispest lettuce.
Next served is the Omelet Tortilla, a true staple of Spanish cuisine. The famous Tortilla Espanola is served cold just like it would be found if you walked into any local cantina back in Spain.
Not long after, Salim returns from the kitchen with one of El Toro’s signature dishes and what would be described by many as the national dish of Spain. It is of course, the rice dish of paella. The Chicken & Rabbit Paella is served, but there are five varieties in total to try on the menu from including the Spicy Shellfish, the Black Rice with Squid, Chicken, Pork & Shellfish, and the iconic Valencian Fiduea.
After much food and conversation, the plates are cleared away and stories are shared about time spent in Barcelona over another cup of Sangria. Just when it seems not possible to eat anymore, three delectable looking desserts are brought out and quite miraculously everyone has rediscovered their appetite. The Catalan Cream is perfectly sweet, and although the Bread Pudding and the Tarta Santiago prove popular too, there is no beating the crème brulee from Catalonia.
El Toro is the Spanish restaurant that Shenzhen has long been crying out for. With an owner from Madrid and a chef from the Basque country serving up dishes from Galicia to Catalonia, you are unlikely to find a more authentic Spanish dining experience in the city.
Average Spend per Head: 80RMB
Address: Room 122-123 East Block, Coast Building, 3rd Haide Avenue, Nanshan (深圳市南山区海德三道海岸大厦东座一楼122—123铺)
Tel: +86 13302312550