El Toro Chino Latin + Asian Kitchen 3

Food, Drinks All Made From Scratch

Fresh, made-from-scratch meals. A relaxed, casual and fun atmosphere that’s ideal for families, date night or just about any other occasion. A friendly and attentive wait staff. These are just some of the draws of one of Norman’s newest restaurants: El Toro Chino Latin + Asian Kitchen.

El Toro Chino, which means “The Chinese Bull,” which opened at the end of November 2016, has already attracted a loyal fan base from across Cleveland County, including one couple who, co-owner and executive chef Gerry Reardon says, ate there for lunch and dinner five days one week after discovering the place.

Reardon says he and his wife, Jennifer, and the two other co-owners of the restaurant, Scott and Kathleen Shuler, decided on the name “because the bull is very prevalent in Asian and Latin culture.

“It was a good way to tie in the two cultures, he explains, “and we wanted it to be part of the branding.”

The Reardons bring a wealth of experience to the business. Jennifer served as catering director at Benvenuti’s for nine years; he previously served as director of operations at Café 501 in Edmond.

Reardon says what sets El Toro Chino apart from many other restaurants is its cuisine, a unique fusion of Latin and Asian, but also “the fact we make everything from scratch.” As much as possible, they also purchase their ingredients, especially vegetables, locally.

Lunch customers order at the counter. Selections include bowls, wraps and salads, many “create-your-own.” Two lunchtime favorites are The Moo, made with marinated skirt steak, and the Marisco, a shrimp dish.

At dinner and Sunday Brunch, customers are served at their table.

My sister, Lori Hanna, and I recently checked out their brunch, starting with a “regular” mimosa and a mango mimosa. We shared the Pollo Loco Tortilla Soup as an appetizer, though it’s actually an entrée. Served with fresh avocado slices and warm corn tortillas, we were wowed by its fresh, wholesome taste. I enjoyed the scrambled egg plate, featuring cheesy scrambled eggs, Mexican potatoes, a buttermilk biscuit, and choice of bacon, sausage or fresh fruit. Lori enjoyed the Paco’s Taco Salad, featuring lean ground beef, black beans, tortilla chip, a jack cheese blend, romaine, pico and avocado, who proclaimed it “delicious and so fresh!”

Among the other popular brunch items are the Closed on Sunday Chicken Sandwich and Chicken and Waffles.

Now, let’s talk appetizers. Two customer favorites are the Fusian Nachos, made with crispy wonton chips, marinated skirt steak, hoisin Korean barbecue, black beans, and more, and the Mango Salsa and Wonton Chips (Jennifer’s recipe). Other choices include sautéed edamame, spicy crab cake and carnitas sliders.

El Toro Chino sports an assortment of entrees. Customer favorites include the Brown Sugar-Soy Sauche Marinated Prime Brisket with cilantro-lime sauce and the Shrimp Empanada, featuring fried masa filled with grilled shrimp, roasted corn, a jack cheese blend and spinach.

The list of entrees also includes several salads, filet mignon, grilled salmon, a chicken stir-fry and mushroom lo mein, to name only a few.

Many main and side dishes can be ramped up, if desired, by adding one or more of the restaurant’s fresh, made-from-scratch sauces. The most popular is the Korean barbecue sauce; others include cilantro lime, peanut, and Sriracha ranch.

Dessert anyone? Two favs are their Churro Bowl, coated with cinnamon and sugar and served with caramel sea salt gelato, and Mexican chocolate cake, made with a hint of cayenne in the chocolate mousse.

The restaurant also offers an extensive list of domestic and imported white and red wines, sake, and specialty cocktails, all made from scratch. Popular choices include the El Toro Tiki, a tequila-based cocktail made with fresh watermelon juice and Habanero simple syrup, and the Blackberry + Rosemary Gin Fizz.

“We also have a fabulous catering department that can do any size event,” Reardon said, noting that their taco bar is quite popular, though they also can cater any item/s on their menu.

On weekends, patrons also will enjoy live music.

El Toro Chino is located at 2801 36th Ave. NW in Norman; call 701.8676 for more information.