Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Bit Pricey For Meat, But Worth It: El Toro

El Toro is easy to spot on Second Road in Pattaya
Restaurant reviews often fall victim to silly subjective rantings and ravings on public forums, so to save time let me say I'm not a professional restaurant critic. Somewhat like the old saying "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like", which can encompass "creations" all the way down to those paintings of the pope or Elvis on black velvet, so take this with as many grains of salt as you like - especially those of you who are hypertensive already.

The El Toro Steak House has been serving imported steak and other fine meals on Second Road in Pattaya since 1988, and I understand they've opened a second location in Jomtien.

I first visited there one trip a few years back when a falang friend suggested meeting there since he was on a schedule and it was close to his hotel. Here in California a place called El Toro likely to be a burrito shop or Mexican food place, but this turned out to be a steak house - and a good one, at that. That first visit I had a very nice sirloin steak, while my friend had pork chops. We chatted for an hour or so and both enjoyed our meals.

My second visit I was with a waiter I'd known from a previous hotel stay whom I've remained in contact with as he's changed hotels a couple of times. Normally it's just the two of us out for dinner and a walk or a movie or something, but on this particular evening he asked if he could bring his brother along. As it turned out, his brother sold human hair, and while that may not sound all that enchanting as a dinner topic his colorful stories were really quite funny and kept us laughing most of the meal.

That night I'd had the pork chops, my friend had a New York steak and his brother had a magnificently well-prepared slab of salmon. The pork was moist and tender, and the steak was the best I'd ever had in Thailand. We didn't dine "Thai style", but we did share so we could all try each entree. The service was quick and attentive, the orders were just as they should have been, and everything about the place made for an enjoyable second visit. It was after that visit that I looked the place up on line and learned more about it's good reputation.

Showing perhaps one quarter of the total dining room.
The last time I've visited was a little different, in that I was alone. I mean completely alone, as in nobody else in the place but the owner, a waiter and a cook or two. I was halfway through my dinner before a 50-something British man came thundering in and staked a table in the far corner, (thankfully) on the opposite side of the dining room from my window booth. The man was LOUD. Really LOUD. I suspect he'd already had a couple of drinks before he arrived, but he went on to order (and throw down) two large mugs of beer before his entree even arrived, waving his empty over his head and shouting - actually hollering - across the dining room to the waiter for his refill. Honestly...some people's kids!

That night I had a New York steak, a fresh variety of chilled greens topped with bleu cheese dressing, a baked potato that was a decent portion without going overboard, steamed fresh vegetables and  some coleslaw with a vinegar-type dressing. I'd added an order of tiramisu for dessert and had a bottle of water, but that was more than plenty. I passed on coffee, although I considered it.

Being used to eating for far less there I felt the total cost (with the service charge included) of Bt720 (about $24US) seemed just a tad high, but you sometimes do reliably get what you pay for, and this is a place I'd visit again.

El Toro Steak House - 215/31-32 Second Road, opposite the Royal Garden Mall and in front of the Royal Garden Hotel. 

[March 2012 Update: In the interest of preserving some nice memories of the place I'm leaving this story here, but the restaurant has closed.]

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