18512 Macarthur Blvd
Irvine, CA 92612
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Entree: Tropical Shrimp and Grilled Steak Quesadillas
Dessert: Deep-fried Ice Cream
This is going to be the last in my recent rash of rushed reviews. Made a trip to El Torito after seeing their latest monthly specials mailer. This is a good thing to pay attention to since often they point out your only chance to get some rare and unique Mexican food items. I ordered the Tropical Shrimp and Grilled Steak Quesadillas, "Sauteed shrimp, jack and cotija cheese, chipotle sauce and fruit relish in a flour tortilla. Paired with marinated grill steak, jack and cotija cheese, escabeche and serrano-pepita dip in a red chile corn tortilla." I was about to add a fish taco a la carte thinking the quesadillas wouldn't be enough but they filled me up plenty well. They usually have a special drink and a special dessert on their monthly specials menu; since they didn't this time I ordered their deep-fried ice cream off of their standard menu.
El Torito Tropical Shrimp and Grilled Steak Quesadillas
El Torito Deep-fried Ice Cream
The El Torito chain has been around for just over fifty years now, which makes it the standard setter for sit-down Mexican restaurants. They've kept up with the times though by innovating and experimenting with menu items with much of their innovation being spun off into the El Torito Grill mini-chain and their Las Brisas standalone restaurant and the rest going to their monthly specials menu. And I don't know how they do it but their service as far back as I can remember has been consistently excellent. For doggedly maintaining tradition without ever slipping into stagnancy El Torito earns a four Speedy Gonzales rating:
Update (July 24, 2006): Went back a few days ago to El Torito. They still had the same specials menu but I got a different entree from it, the Combo Grande which included a steak taco, a shrimp taco, and a chicken enchilada. It was supposed to come with beans but they let me get sauteed vegetables instead.