It seemed a simple enough question: Where is home? Yet, for Chef Richard Sandoval, owner of more than 30 restaurants around the globe, from Dubai to Denver, the subject is a little touchy. “A United Airlines seat,” he jokes, “sometimes that really feels like home.” All kidding aside, “I actually live in Southern California, my corporate office is in New York and, 70 percent of the time, I’m on the road going to one restaurant or another.” These days, thanks to the October opening of his celebrated Toro Toro, a high-end pan-Latin steakhouse at the newly renovated InterContinental Hotel, regular stops in Miami are being added to that already hectic travel schedule. “I’d always wanted to open in Miami,” Sandoval says. “As a Latin chef, I felt it was important to do.”
The Mexican-born, 45-year-old James Beard Award nominee opened the first and only other Toro Toro in Dubai last year, after the chairman of Emirates airline, who had traveled to Brazil, enjoyed a meal at a traditional churrasqueria and “loved it,” says Sandoval, called to say he wanted to open something similar in Dubai. He asked Sandoval, who was already operating another restaurant in the region—Pampano, an elegant Latin American seafood eatery, in Qatar—to lead the project. “We wanted a modern interpretation of the churrasqueria. The classic one has a big buffet of appetizers and then the servers come by passing around meat,” Sandoval says. “Sometimes that can be too much. And you may not come back to the restaurant for two months because you associate it with eating too much. So we took the idea, the familiar dishes you find there and created small plates you can share. But you can still have unlimited amounts of beef, if that’s what you want.”
When it came time to develop Toro Toro’s Miami menu, Sandoval says he wanted to offer a more prominent nod to the city’s profoundly Latin American population. For example, while the Venezuelan cachapas on the Dubai menu are stuffed with duck, the Miami ones are more classically stuffed with cheese. In the Miami kitchen, he says, there’s a broader use of a vast variety of South American chiles. Translation: the food is spicier! “They’re not huge differences, but they are meaningful ones,” Sandoval says. “They’re things we know the Miami guest will understand and recognize.” —Betty Cortina-Weiss
Toro Toro, 100 Chopin Plaza, Miami; 305-372-4710; richardsandoval.com
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