Why Gustavo Ate at El Torito Grill in Fashion Island for Free
I made an exception to all the above rules last Wednesday, when Patrón and El Torito Grill in Fashion Island paired up for a tequila tasting dinner. But I wasn't there for the food--I was there to hang with El Torito founder, 86-year-old Larry Cano.
Cano is still spry despite his age, and we only talked for a little bit, saving a fuller interview for a future date (he did share a whopper of an anecdote about Taco Bell founder Glenn Bell, which I'm saving for the book because it's too good--let's just say Glenn is even more of an usurper than we already know him to be). And the food wasn't bad, either: I arrived late so missed the appetizers, but the cream of poblano soup with masa dumplings was rich, the robalo nicely grilled and saving its too-tomato-y broth, and a duck breast in mole poblano perfect: equal parts bitter and sweet, with all the grease from the bird gone. And while the churros were so-so, an ending coffee drink of a Patrón coffee liqueur, topped with a citrus foam, was stunning--and I hate coffee.
Not everything was perfect. It was supposed to be a tequila tasting event, yet the waiters only served me one shot out of the four we were supposed to receive. The acoustics at El Torito Grill approximated a room filled with sheet metal. And what does tropical music have to do with Mexican food? Nevertheless, the dinner worked, and El Torito CEO Dick Rivera (who sat at our table) vowed to work these dishes into his chain's morass of too-sticky enchiladas and bland refried beans.
As for Cano? Details to come...