Message in a Bottle

International Top Chef Is Opening a Restaurant and Bar in the Four Seasons

Richard Sandoval has restaurants from Qatar to Serbia, now he's hitting Houston with Bayou & Bottle.

By Alice Levitt September 12, 2016

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Richard Sandoval, quite possibly thinking about whiskey.

He's got three restaurants in Dubai, three in Qatar, one each in Japan and Serbia, and six in his native Mexico. All told, Richard Sandoval has more than 40 eateries currently open around the world. He says he logs about 300,000 miles a year attending to them all. But unless they too are traveling, Houstonians will have to wait until the first week in January to try his food. That's when his latest concept, Bayou & Bottle, will open in the lobby of the Four Seasons. "For the first time I can guarantee we will open on time," Sandoval says. "The Super Bowl is a few weeks later."

Though most of his restaurants are unique to the places they feed, Sandoval has several La Biblioteca de Tequilas sprinkled mostly around the United States. The goal of those giant tequila bars (the Denver location, for example, boasts more than 350 bottles) is to educate guests in the manifold glories of agave spirits. With Bayou & Bottle, he's seeking to do the same thing with whiskey and Bourbon. 

Why not stick to tequilas and mezcals in Houston? "Houston, to me, it’s very American. I wanted to revisit something that’s been around a long time," Sandoval explains. And after all, "The millennials, they don't know that much about Scotch."

The bar will be built to play off the look of a Bourbon barrel, with diners surrounded by wood. Leather seating will add to a comfortable feel that Sandoval hopes will encourage guests to stay a while. 

That's more likely if they partake in the food. Sandoval says he's been conceiving the menu to be intensely American, but the result sounds very specifically Houstonian. "In American restaurants, when you say it’s American food, American food today is a melting pot of a lot of different cultures," he says. That means hitting global favorites including banh mi and a variety of raw fish dishes including tiraditos, crudos and ceviches. A lobster roll and chicken pot pie will be among the homey, old-school American eats, but Sandoval will also showcase the foods being produced by Americans with a charcuterie board filled with domestic cheeses.

He hopes the chef de cuisine who will run the kitchen most of the time will be local as well. He's in the process of auditioning candidates and will likely select a chef by October. "We prefer to go with somebody local who the community knows and embraces and understands," Sandoval says. And with a local touch, who knows what other deliciousness is to come in January?

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