Restaurant Revisited: Fiery Family Fusion at Pasión Latin Fusion

by in Shows, March 19th, 2014

Robert IrvineInferior food was just one of the problems Robert Irvine was forced to contend with when he arrived at Pasión Latin Fusion in Albuquerque, N.M. Owners Monica and Elvis Bencomo were faced with financial struggles and family conflict, and they needed Restaurant: Impossible to improve their issues if Pasión was to have any chance at future success. With just two days to work and a budget of only $10,000, Robert transformed the interior of the Latin-inspired eatery, overhauled the menu and eased strained personal relationships to ultimately relaunch the business. Read on below to hear from Monica in an exclusive interview and find out how Pasión is doing a few months after its Restaurant: Impossible reopening.

Since Robert left, Monica says, “Sales are definitely up by about 40 percent compared to January 2013 and 30 percent from December 2013.” She adds that “according to our servers, about one in five customers are new.”

Returning diners “love the decor and how it looks very modern and open,” according to Monica, who notes that she’s especially keen on “the bar, [the] lighting and the cushions on the wall.”

Monica explains that they’ve tweaked Robert’s menu to be “a bit more Latino” than it was. “We know this was just a blueprint for success, and it looks like now people are really enjoying the small-plates style and our few offerings of main dishes.” Among Robert’s top dishes are “the crispy artichokes [and] cauliflower a la plancha. And the Quesadilla Cubano has been a great hit,” she says.

Monica adds that Pasión has become more streamlined since Robert left, thanks in part to how he set up the business. “Chef Irvine organized our kitchen in a way where it is a lot more open and efficient — and just everything overall that we learned from him is being used as much as possible. The menu is no longer confusing and people read and order for themselves, and we are turning tables over a lot faster.”

Since Orlando has moved to the front of house, Monica says that “he is implementing a few things he learned in the military into management, which has helped him [to] better able to lead his crew.” She adds that Orlando and Elvis are working on “day-to-day operations” and notes, “Since the show, I believe Elvis and Orlando’s relationship has dramatically improved.”

In terms of Elvis’ schedule, Monica admits: “He is now down from 70+ hours a week to around 60. We are working on making the most-efficient, consistent schedule with our cooks and him.” Looking ahead, she says that “Elvis wants to concentrate on this restaurant as much as possible and concentrate on the cooking and creating part of it.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Tootie’s Texas BBQ (March 12)
Mill Creek BBQ Restaurant (March 5)
Estrada’s Restaurant (February 5)
Hillbillies Restaurant (January 29)
Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill (January 15)
Heather’s Country Kitchen (January 1)
Goombazz Big City Eatzz (December 18)
LBI Pancake House (December 8)
Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Company (December 8)
Mike La Susa’s Italian Restaurant (December 4)
Seven (November 27)
Georgia Boy Cafe (November 20)
Coach Lamp Restaurant & Pub (November 13)
The Windsor 75 (November 6)
Ducky’s Family Restaurant (October 30)
Mama Campisi’s Restaurant (October 23)
Aponte’s Pizzeria (August 25)
Benner Street (July 28)
Hurley’s American Grille (July 21)
Kalico Kitchen (July 14)
Angelo’s (June 23)
Pier West Restaurant (June 16)
Pinehurst Country Lodge (June 9)
Bryan’s Smokehouse (May 26)
Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant (May 19)
Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant (May 12)
Smitty’s Restaurant (April 28)
Old World Italian Restaurant (April 21)
Joe Willy’s Seafood House (April 14)

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Comments (64)

  1. Larry says:

    Got the chance to eat "before" and "after" the episode. Liked the food both ways and the "after" is definitely an improvement. I really want to see this succeed as it is quite unique and I really liked the way the couple was portrayed in the show. However, when I went on a Wednesday night where it wasn't busy, the food servers were distracted because they constantly had to monitor the front door; Orlando wasn't there. He was either in the back or at his laptop at the bar reviewing Amazon with his back to the door. Food was delicious but took some time. Front door needs a "spruce up" to be inviting for newbies that don't know how good the food is. (Picky comment…windows need washing). Hope it continues to improve….great concept with great food.

  2. Edward says:

    Wow. Nice to see all the mostly positive comments on here. I wish them the best of luck. Food looked good before and after. Design is much better.

  3. Jessica says:

    I drive past this place EVERY DAY and until I saw it on RI, I had no idea how delicious the food looks! Looks like this will be the new date night spot!

  4. indygirl25 says:

    Really liked this show, the owners, staff, and, of course, the Restaurant Impossible team. Looking forward to eatingat Pasion when I'm in Albuquerque next.

    Off the subject, but important. My daughter loves tiles, the art that Taniya did was fantastic. I think Taniya used a corner from art that was already in the restaurant, but it may have been a piece that was similar to the "before" art . Anyway she increased the size of the pic at Kinko's, cut the piece into 6 squares, then affixed those pieces to chipboard pieces to make a tile effect, and hung the tiles together as a group. Does anyone know any more details about Taniya's process?

  5. amckene says:

    I just watched this episode and was in tears at the end. I'm SO happy for this family. Wishing you SUCCESS!

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