Richard Sandoval is known locally and internationally for his modern Mexican restaurants—think Denver’s Tamayo and La Sandia, and Vail Valley’s Maya. He travels further afield, across Central and South America and all the way to Asia, with his newest-to-Denver Toro Latin Kitchen & Lounge inside the JW Marriot in Cherry Creek.
“It’s all about the menu,” Sandoval says. “It’s Latin cooking without borders. We use ingredients from Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela—the whole gamut of South and Central America. Then there’s Asian, some Japanese. It’s just a really nice, warm, eclectic, bold cuisine.”
While Toro’s opening menu isn’t as lengthy as it will be post-COVID, the offerings are still impressive. Sandoval’s favorites include ceviche with hamachi, aji amarillo, and mango; shrimp cocktail agua chile; and salmon marinated in achiote (a spice made from peppery ground annatto seeds) served with dashi-braised bok choy and bacon-morita chile jam. (Early take-out tastes have us concurring on Sandoval’s opinion of the salmon dish, which remained at a perfect medium-rare even 20 minutes after pick up. The flaky empanadas stuffed with corn and Manchego, dipped into avocado crema and chimichurri, were also fantastic.)
This is Sandoval’s sixth Toro location worldwide (including one inside the Viceroy Snowmass), and he selected his longtime chef Oscar Padilla to helm the restaurant. “Oscar was my chef at Tamayo for four or five years. We sent him to Toro Dubai and Toro Los Cabos (to train), and then he came here to open Cherry Creek.”
Unique to the new Toro is the long ceviche bar—currently closed due to the pandemic, of course—and you can order dishes from its menu at the socially-distanced tables. That’s a big part of the reason Sandoval chose to open right now—the 6,700-square-foot space allows for plenty of distancing, with seating for 35 on the patio and 72 inside. “It has a pretty big outside patio, and even indoors it has doors that open up so you can have the inside-outside experience,” he says.
There are also private tequila lockers at Toro, if that’s your thing, and a trio of bull murals by local artist Patrick Kane McGregor. Toro brings much to see and taste to Cherry Creek, and seems like it will fit right in.