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Carmel’s Newest Hotspot

By Bettina McBee | Photos by Manny Espinoza

Carmel’s newest attraction, Toro, offers authentic Japanese cuisine with a sake bar and is quickly gaining attention. Located in Carmel on Dolores between 5th and 6th Streets, this new eatery, designed by co-owner Kristen Ridout and inspired by co-owner Fadi Alnimri (also owner of Treehouse Café) is a dream come true for Ridout.

Ridout, who is 28, dreamed of owning a restaurant when she was a teenager working for International Cuisine in Pacific Grove. She met Alnimri there, and their friendship grew through their shared passion for fine dining and excellent customer service. After graduating from San Jose State University, where she studied hospitality management, Ridout gained years of experience while employed by several private, top-rated county clubs, including Monterey Peninsula Country Club, managing the culinary specifications of their exclusive clientele.

With a mixture of Chinese-American heritage and a youthful flair, Ridout adds a modern vibe to traditional Japanese dishes at Toro. Entrees are artistic presentations reflecting the traditional style of dining, with Ridout’s own subtle details.

The menu is simple in that it serves authentic Asian cuisine, highlighting the best quality fresh fish and vegetables. Praised for its fresh ingredients, flavorful fish, seasonal vegetables, and top-notch customer service, Toro has been labeled “the new favorite restaurant in Carmel,” boosted by online reviews that offer “bombalicious,” “amazingly fresh entrees,” and “AAA grade sushi.” A customer who drove from San Jose stated that it was “well worth the drive.”

Toro, Ridout explains, is the best part of the tuna belly. The name reflects the high quality of the restaurant’s classic rolls with a modern flair, all moderately priced. Unique menu selections include Toro hamachi carpaccio and oysters, dynamite fried spicy tuna, crispy unary eel, and, of course, rolls. The rice is delicious, as are the mouthwatering menu items: nigiri and sashimi. The Sake Bar, according to Ridout, is “a fun challenge, pairing wines and sake with all the different types of fish.”

Ridout’s sommelier talents are expertly paired with the skills of her fiancé, Stephen Wilson. Together, they created a premium wine selection and unique sake tasting flight, as well as sake cocktails, offering a harmonizing twist to Toro’s ambience. For dessert, green tea ice cream and strawberry mochi ice cream top the list.

Dogs are welcome and have a menu of their own. They can choose either savory chicken or tasty salmon, either is guaranteed to make tails wag. All food choices are eco-friendly, based on availability and sustainability. Included in the menu is a weight watchers selection. Combining different tastes and flavors to delight customer’s palates is Ridout’s objective. Chef Grant Kester is one of the newest additions, and the team at Toro is thrilled.

As the restaurant’s reputation grows, Ridout plans for it to evolve. “Toro is an embodiment of myself,” says Ridout, “I want everyone to feel welcomed as we strive to provide a great experience.” Outdoor dining is available as is ordering to go. Either way, you’ll be satisfied.

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