Haute Dining: 10 Questions for Restaurateur Richard Sandoval

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.

Maya, a Modern Mexican Cuisine & Tequila Bar

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.

Zengo, Sandoval's Latin-Asian inspired restaurant

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

La Biblioteca, downstairs at Zengo

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.

DohYO in Yotel

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.