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El Cazador del Mar

With 94 different bottles of tequila, the entire staff at El
Cazador del Mar — from general manager Alex Castillo and chef
Roberto Lopez on down — spends a lot of time educating people about
the various types of tequila. And that’s before you even order a
drink.

“We like to give people a little tequila tasting,” said
Castillo, “like a mini-seminar.” He’s not exaggerating. Sit down at
the bar when this affable host is around, and you’re likely to wind
up with four or five slender shot glasses, each with a sip of a
range of El Cazador’s many fine tequilas. (See the Top 5 on this
page for our picks from their selection.)

Their education philosophy seems to be working. During a recent
weekend they sold out of not one, but two of their most expensive
($40/shot) tequilas. Margaritas are, of course, popular as well.
“We use classic recipes, but with fresh ingredients,” said
Castillo. On the menu you’ll find the expected Cadillac (with Grand
Marnier and Patrón versions), along with concoctions like the
Chapala (grenadine and fresh lime juice), Cielito Lindo (with blue
curacao), and the Tamarindo, made from whole tamarind pods that are
lovingly cooked with sugar to add a tart kick.

It is a bit surprising to wander into what appears, on the
surface, to be another run-of-the-mill Mexican joint, only to
discover what care and passion has gone into everything. Not only
are the sangria chasers and margarita ingredients made from scratch
in-house, practically everything else is, too. “When you order
guacamole, we go in the back and start chopping avocados,” said
Lopez.

But when you learn that Castillo and Lopez have worked together
for more than six years, and met back when Castillo was running the
kitchen at the Wine Cask, it all makes sense. “We have a good
foundation,” Castillo said. “We both graduated from culinary
school — but we want to do home cooking.” With home-style
techniques, a chef can’t rely on sleight of hand to dress things
up, so Lopez and Castillo are very conscious of quality, using only
the best ingredients from local purveyors.

All the fancy tequilas aside, what keeps people coming back to
this De la Guerra gem is its homey, comfortable atmosphere. “I feel
like this is my house,” Castillo said with a warm smile. “When you
come in, I want you to have the best time at my home.”

4•1•1
El Cazador del Mar, 731 De la Guerra Plaza, 965-5606.

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