It’s a new year and if I’m being totally honest with you in this Hellish futurescape—and I usually am—I’m typically not a fan of many of the metro’s varied fusion restaurants. In my hefty experiences, too many times, it’s one lousy owner plus one dense chef combining two disparately different cuisines, both equally inedible, at least to this admittedly untrained and uncultured palate.
The one exception to this line of thinking, however, is the Latin/Asian hybrid of El Toro Chino—the Chinese Bull, translated from Spanish, you’re welcome—2801 36th Ave NW in the “under development” area of north Norman.
And while I’m sure the story behind the restaurant is a deliciously romantic tale of cross-cultural love that was very nearly ripped apart by high society’s noted dislike of all things Latino and Asian, I’m not going to do any research and learn the truth because the real reportage here is all about their masterful mingling of two different worlds and the intriguing eats that have been birthed.
Settling in for late Saturday brunch—lunch?—we started off the meal with the wonderous Wonton Chips and Mango Salsa ($6.00), a crunchy appetizer with a sweetly-warm sauce that was quickly shoveled in to our gaunt faces, necessitating almost immediately another round of these apps. As my girlfriend sipped her sanguinary Spicy Bloody Mary ($7.00), I genuinely enjoyed my cup of devastatingly Latin American coffee ($2.50).
The orders hit the table with such a stealth speed and smooth efficiency that it made me vociferously proud to be a Chicano; my girlfriend’s Mucho Veggie Signature Combo ($10.00) was the first to be sampled. A glorious mixture of avocado edamame, cilantro rice, fresh spinach, julienned squash and sautéed mushrooms, mating with wild abandon with a jack cheese blend and a spicy citrus sour cream, it was the perfect melding of Mexican sense and Asian sensibility in a salad format.
My dish was a delightful mocking of Chick-Fil-A’s closed-on-Sunday practices, the apropos-named Closed-On-Sunday Chicken Sandwich ($13.00). Perhaps one of the most delightful chicken sandwiches hailing from the outskirts of Oklahoma City—or really any localized city—it consisted of a breaded chicken breast stuffed between a toasted potato bun; but dig what was buried with it: house-made pickles and caramelized onions, slathered with a dollop of El Toro Chino’s own special sauce.
Gently pacing myself with each bite of this remarkable chicken sandwich by having a loving spoonful of the El Toro Mac and Cheese side, while the meal really wasn’t that representative of either Latin or Asian cuisine, it was very much an edible symbol of the history of Oklahoma’s foodstuffs and the eternal wish for something better than what we’re usually saddled with. Cómpralo ya!