Round two with Arnold Rubio, exec chef of Tamayo
This is part two of my interview with Arnold Rubio, exec chef of Tamayo; part one of our chat ran yesterday.
What's your idea of a great dining experience? I love great food, but a great dining experience really depends on superior service. My position as executive chef at Tamayo is extremely important, but if Miranda McFarlan, our general manager, weren't so exceptional at her job, all of my efforts would be wasted. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a talented general manager who keeps us all on track. Miranda and I, along with most of our staff, have worked with Tamayo and Richard since we opened more than ten years ago.
Most memorable meal you've had in Denver: My wife is an amazing cook and recently made me an incredible meal with gorditas -- and lest you think these are like those awful Taco Bell gorditas, they're not. Hers are authentic and delicious, and she makes them with fresh masa that's hold-molded, filled with her own spicy mix of chiles and beef and topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and crema fresca. With two sons, a wife, and a restaurant job that takes up a lot of my time, I'm happiest enjoying meals at home with my family.
Your five favorite Denver/Boulder restaurants other than your own: Sushi Sasa, Rioja, Taqueria el Trompito, the Palm and Zengo are my top five. Sushi Sasa is my absolute favorite restaurant in Denver, and luckily, my wife and sons love it as much as I do. Rioja is just across the street from Tamayo, and they do an incredible job. I love my neighbors on Larimer Square; they're great company to keep. Taqueria el Trompito is cheap and delicious, so you can't beat that, but I also love a good steak, and the Palm, while expensive, does the best steaks in Denver. Marco, the chef, is a great guy and very talented. In fact, I'm planning a special date night there with my wife very soon. I know that including Zengo is kind of cheating because it's a Richard Sandoval restaurant, but I really love Zengo for its diverse and playful cooking style.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? I'm so proud of the food industry that Denver has cultivated in the last thirteen years since I've been in Denver. We have a very tight-knit restaurant community here, and we've come a long way in developing a lot of top-notch chefs. Our dining scene is still young, but we're maturing quickly, and I wouldn't change a thing.
If you had the opportunity to open your own restaurant with no budget constraints, what kind of restaurant would you open? I know Mexican cuisine the best and I love it, so I can't imagine ever moving away from this style of cooking, but I would consider adding in some El Salvadorean food like papusas or maricada. Someday, I'd like to do a Latin fusion restaurant.
Favorite dish on your menu: We updated our menu when we renovated Tamayo back in February, and I'm most excited about our squash-blossom quesadilla. It's a traditional Mexican quesadilla -- not what you would get at a casual Mexican restaurant. Just imagine fresh masa that's hand-pressed and filled with fresh squash blossoms, poblano chiles and Oaxaca cheese and then deep-fried until golden brown. They're scrumptious. We also serve some pretty great margaritas and have more than 150 different kinds of tequila at our bar.
Biggest menu bomb: We don't add a dish to the Tamayo menu if our staff doesn't love it. It's not a secret that if we can't sell our servers on a dish, they can't sell it to customers -- and they shouldn't have to. If we hear a hint of a whisper that a dish isn't up to our standards, I change it before the menus are printed.