Chef Richard Sandoval’s sizzling new Aqimero at the Ritz-Carlton is fall’s hottest reservation.
Crispy chicken tacos are one of Sandoval’s lunch-ready bites.
What does it take to lure one of the world’s busiest restaurateurs—40 restaurants and counting from New York City to Dubai—to Philadelphia? For celebrity chef-owner Richard Sandoval, it was one look around the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia’s magnificent marble lobby. “Philly has already exceeded our expectations,” says Sandoval, standing in the glass-enclosed kitchen of his buzzy new Latin American concept, Aqimero, on a late summer evening.
With more than 200 seats between the formal dining room and see-and-be-seen lobby bar—both bathed in the Ritz’s new metallic hues thanks to a multimillion-dollar renovation—the restaurant reflects Sandoval’s made-from-scratch style and many South of the Border influences, Peruvian and Latin-Asian among them.
A wood-fired grill, one of the chef’s favorite cooking tools, is the secret behind many of the menu’s meat and seafood selections. “Guests are exploring not-so-familiar dishes like the Mexican-style whole roasted snapper and the grilled Spanish octopus,” says Sandoval. The sushi and ceviche bar and raw bar are also worth a look, and are best enjoyed alongside one of Aqimero’s many signature cocktails: Here, the standard margarita and mule are mezcal-based, while the classic Paloma benefits from grapefruit soda from Mexican brand Jarritos.
With only a handful of fine-dining Latin American restaurants in Philadelphia, Aqimero’s arrival signals a shift in the city’s already eclectic culinary interests. That change is not lost on Sandoval. “We’re bringing the Latin American ritual of the meal to Philly in a modern, sustainable way,” he says. Olé!