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. Pat says:

    I love to watch this show-but let's get real-you can't possibly open a restaurant and serve food while there is wet paint and floor glue fumes-this is just not possible

  2. Cindy Kozlowski says:

    I recently had lunch with a few friends at Pasion Latin Fusion .. It was incredible, we will return and have recommended several times.

  3. Big Road says:

    Planning a trip to the duke city in two months i will visit the restaurant for a bite to eat viva la raza…

  4. Mark says:

    I was looking at this episode and the restaurant as it was prior to the food network showing up and after and in this case, there was really not much to do with the menu. There were a few issues with the food but it wasn't a complete menu makeover. The makeover was in the front of the house. The decor and the operations. Also, the owners were very receptive to suggestions on how to make this better. This is very different from the usual show where the owners are failing mostly because of the owners. This was completely different and very refreshing to see the $10,000 change in the front of the house actually be warranted and work very well with the talent in the kitchen.

    • Mel says:

      You don't have to have a great looking restaurant to have lots of customers if the food is good. Diners, Drive-In's and Dives proves that. Apparently not many people thought they had good food to warrant a return trip.

  5. James O'Donnell says:

    You should include the rock-star guitar riff every time Taniya is presented as the show's restaurant designer. She deserves it.

  6. Jackie says:

    I thought that Monica was very over-powering. Poor Elvis was like a beaten dog. I feel that she needs to back off a bit and let him take the front lead. Let him speak for himself and, once in a while, let him answer and speak first. I realize that I am of the older generation where the man of the house meant something so I don't expect a lot of backing.

  7. Toya says:

    I love food and im cook to this re- new Pasion Latin Fusion is the the best episode of ""Restaurant Impossible" Good luck to Become family they have Mucha Passion!!! Toya from Napa Valley

  8. T.K. says:

    I also agree that it was refreshing to see a couple who genuinely love each other and work together. When I am in El Paso again I will MAKE my baby brother take me there. May God's Choice Blessing be upon the Bencomo family. I hope Elvis will also have more time to share moments with his growing son.

  9. sara says:

    Just want to shout out to the brother! Awesome to support a brother's passion with such a huge investment!! I like that Robert helps people find their strengths and puts them in positions to make the most impact. I like that so many of these owners have such a big vision they try to do it all but learn they are more successful when they let others help. So best wishes to you all!!! But to the brother, you are a hero for serving our country. You are a hero for supporting your family. Best wishes to you in your new role … keep it real keep it fresh keep it smart!!!

  10. Revv says:

    My wife and I loved the old menu!!!! Was it hard to read and confusing, YES but that was the fun part:) Spanish food is too common here. What made the restaurant great before was the AMAZING food. We were back in January and we were so disappointed at the menu. All of our favorites were gone!!!! The place did look great. I spoke with the waiter. He said that he heard the same comments from most regulars. What made the place great to us is that is was different from any food you could get in ABQ. We pray that many of the key items return. My wife LOVED the chicken in banana leaves and the plantains and that delicious corn side!!. Chef Elvis is a very talented chef . What RI did was hopefully helped the situation financially but it would be hard to improve on the great food that was on the original menu.. PLEASE bring the Goods back!!!

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