The Border Grill has become something of a Los Angeles institution, a crown jewel in the burgeoning empire of celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. It’s been around for over ten years and spawned two other locations, not to mention a food truck too. Aside from serving up tasty Mexican fare, the restaurant also occasionally hosts Margarita Dinners — multicourse prix fix meals that come with, you guessed it, margaritas. I was recently invited to a media-comped Margarita Dinner at the Santa Monica location, and while I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, my friend Cathy did warn me that “Ohhhh… their Margarita Dinners are soooo fun.”
After the jump, check out the tasty food and drinks I ingested at the Border Grill…
Things start off with a tiny cocktail called La Revolucion. It consists of Revolucion 100 Proof tequila, lime, and agave. While it may appear to be a shot, I can assure you that it was very much a sipper. Alas, my table-mate was not aware of this and downed the whole thing, which resulted in a rather contorted face afterwards. Too bad for him. Luckily, the rest of us were able to savor all the tequila goodness.
La Calentada: crudo, tobiko, and a jicama tostada. I adored this. Bright, fresh, and everything that modern Mexican cuisine should be. I should also note that this first course was labeled La Revolución, and I can assure you, my enthusiasm was so high that indeed I felt like storming some fortress and demanding reparations.
The next course was labeled Evolución, and here we can see the mere shot glass of tequila has in fact evolved into a full-scale pint glass of joy. This is the fennel anissette margarita, made with Revolucion Silver, fennel, anissette, lemon, agave, and fennel pollen. I was a fan.
The evolución continued with the Border Grill’s take on the humble chile relleno. This dish, called the Chile Relleno 2.0, featured a poblano flan (I likey da flan), an egg crepe, manchego, and blistered tomato sauce. Another tasty offering, especially thanks to that manchego. But what, honestly, does manchego not improve? Fish sticks, I suppose, but even that I’m not totally convinced of.
The third course welcomed us to the TRANSFORMACIÓN, as epitomized I suppose by this tamarind sidecar (Revolucion anejo, tamarind syrup, lemon, orange liqueur). I liked this a great deal, despite it being a shade too sweet, and I was rather glum that I had to forgo much of the cocktail so that I wouldn’t commit a felony behind the wheel of my car later. Alas, I’d prefer to drive my car than to drink a sidecar (a little rhyming in honor of nothing in particular).
For the main course, we enjoyed an enchilada Abierto: chayote tortillas, reposado braised brisket, roasted chile guajilo, and ginger lime crema. Again, another dish that played with sour, tangy, and acidic flavors to great effect.
Arriving with the main course was this giant bowl of roasted vegetables, and my goodness did they steal the show. I hate to detract from the other dishes, but these veggies were kind of the best food we ate all night. They were probably the simplest too. We were told what they were roasted with, but since I am a VERY responsible blogger, I forgot to write it down. So… just imagine.
The CEO of Tequila Revolución was on hand, and he gave us little tastes of some of the expensive stuff. We all enjoyed it very much. I managed to get his card in hopes of scoring a bottle to blog about (my friend Sly and I are overdo to create a new cocktail for The Quaff), but alas, I somehow lost the card and am now sadly without tequila. And that is a terrible place to be.
Time for the dessert course, known formally as MODIFICACIÓN. I believe that’s Spanish for “Modification,” in case you were wondering. Anyway, our little dessert cocktail was called La Serenata and featured Revolución reposado, coffee liqueur, and coconut. I don’t really remember how it tasted. I’m sure it was lovely.
Yikes! Horchata Panna Cotta, which came with a “berry caviar” and vanilla polvorón. As many of you know, I really detest berries, but I’ve been much better about facing my fears; so I’m proud to announce I ate half of this, and didn’t die. In fact, I enjoyed it.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed the Margarita Dinner. Solid cocktails, delicious food, and at $55 per person, it’s practically a steal (four cocktails, four courses? Mmmyeah it’s worth it). Plus, Top Chef: Masters fans will delight in the chance to maybe meet Milliken or Feniger (the latter of whom stopped by our table and others to say hi).
I’m not sure when the next Margarita Dinner is, but keep abreast of all the news here.