At Zengo, Richard Sandoval’s Latin-Asian inspired restaurant, I nibbled on offerings from the Shanghai Sao Paulo-themed Test Kitchen menu: crispy shanghai spring rolls, soup dumplings, picahna steak and king crab served with black beans that are a carnivore’s dream: the beans arrive with bacon, beef and shredded pork. While sitting in a booth and sipping a spiked tea—green tea vodka with acai liqueur—I certainly didn’t feel like I was in NYC’s Midtown. That’s what the Richard Sandoval experience does: you feel as if you’ve been plucked out of New York (or wherever else you may be dining) and into another world, via the food, which is clearly thought-through thoroughly, and the atmosphere. Sandoval has mastered this experience. Case in point: his empire of over 26 restaurants around the world, each with a modern Mexican, Latin or Asian experience, is flourishing.—Tracey Ceurvels
Here, I speak with Richard Sandoval, the award-winning man behind an award-winning empire.
Haute Living: What’s new at your restaurants?
Richard Sandoval: I just remodeled the downstairs of Pampano and turned it into a Botaneria and sangria bar similar to a tapas lounge. I am remodeling Maya NY and expanding it to include a tequila bar. Remodeling Maya Dubai and Tamayo in Denver. I just opened Toro Toro in Dubai and Omiya, a Japanese restaurant, in Mexico City.
HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at your restaurants?
RS: I love them all, but if I have to pick some I love the chicken tamal with a chipotle bbq sauce from Maya, the smoked swordfish from Pampano and the tuna ceviche from Pampano. From Zengo I love the pulled pork arepas and the edamame XO.
HL: Where do you like to dine in New York City when you’re not working?
RS: I like Nobu Next Door and Momofuko.
HL: What’s your ideal meal?
RS: I love tacos al pastor. It’s adobo marinated pork tacos served with grilled pineapple tomatillo salsa cilantro, onions and queso fundido served with flour tortillas and pico de gallo.
HL: Where do you like to dine on a special occasion?
RS: I love my restaurant Raya at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel because the views of the Pacific are spectacular.
HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?
RS: I love the Meatpacking District because of the energy and all the restaurants.
HL: What do you like to do in NYC on your days off?
RS: I have very few days off, but if I have a little time I like to walk in Central Park.
HL: What’s your favorite vacation destination?
RS: Four Seasons Punta Mita
HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
RS: One of my most memorable meals was about 15 years ago at Lespinasse at the St. Regis Hotel and the chef was Gray Kunz.
HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
RS: Well I have more than five: chiles, cilantro, beans, fresh Mexican cheese, tortillas, avocados, wasabi, ginger and shiso.
Discover Richard Sandoval’s many restaurants in NYC and around the world on his website.
Visit food + travel writer + Haute Dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels’ blog, The Busy Hedonist for food + travel inspiration.