Peru in Manhattan: Richard Sandoval Opens Raymi

Richard Sandoval is on the move. He has restaurants across the country and around the world, including Zengo, La Biblioteca, and Four at Yotel in New York. Now, the Mexican restaurateur is trying his hand at Peruvian cuisine with the opening of Raymi in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. This comes hot on the heels of his launch of the 10-year-old Pampano’s cocktail lounge, the Botaneria, and the addition of Tequileria Maya in Midtown, an expansion of his newly-renovated Maya restaurant, which he opened 15 years ago. We caught up Sandoval to get the scoop on the renovation, the new addition, and more.    

“Dining styles and menu preferences are changing,” Sandoval says of Maya’s new look and menu. “Maya has been a dining destination on the Upper East Side for delicious Mexican food, but throughout the years, the restaurant became outdated and the food and décor needed a refresh.”
 
Obviously, Sandoval has been doing something right, given his growing empire of more than two dozen restaurants. While all his other venues lean toward Mexican-with-a-twist (Zengo has an Asian bent) Raymi is his first that deals with Peruvian food. Sandoval got the idea after meeting chef Jaime Pesaque, formally of Mayta in Lima, who brought up the idea of opening a restaurant like this in New York.
 
“I saw how he brought Peruvian cuisine to life and how passionate he was about the culture and flavors, like how I am about Mexico,” says Sandoval. “Raymi fits into the group because Jaime and I share the same love for life and for food.”  
 
While Raymi is Sandoval’s first Peruvian restaurant, this cuisine has slowly been growing in the city with Gaston Acurio’s international transplant La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Coco Roco in Brooklyn, and the Pio Pio chain across the city. If everything goes well with the launch, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Raymi expand to other cities soon.

Bang, Bang: I Shot Tequila

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, which can be summed up in a few words: Mexico, tacos, and tequila. Now, if you do this right you can still celebrate Mexican heritage—no, not Mexican independence, that day is on September 16—without the Jose Cuervo hangover we know so well. Instead, strap on you finest sombrero and sip good tequila in style, starting with a trip to La Biblioteca, where they are serving the limited edition Hijos de Villa Blanc, a nine-month aged reposado that comes in cleverly designed gun-shaped bottle. Shooters anyone?

You can only get this special from 5 to 10pm on May 5 (as well as $15 for bottomless guacamole and $5 basic margaritas), but there are 400 other reasons to fall in love with tequila here. That’s right, this sleek bar actually is a library—of tequila. Plus, with long leather couches, low lit community tables, and bottles of booze tagged and behind cages, the space feels like a research room too. Even when it’s not Cinco de Mayo they also do weekly $15 tastings from various distilleries, including the upcoming Corralejo, Don Julio, and Chinaca meet-and-greets.

Swank aside, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t have to be a big night on the town. If you aren’t into tromping to the city to battle it out with the other Mexican pride revelers, I recommend having your own do-it-yourself tasting. One of my favorite distilleries is Herradura, which has been producing top notch, 100-percent agave tequila since 1870. This tequila is made in the lowland of Jalisco, one of the few places in Mexico where the tipple can legally be made, a rule similar to the one that makes Cognac or Champagne a regional name. The company produces three main tequilas: Blanco, reposado, and anejo.

To do the tasting, round up some shooters (should be available in most decent liquor stores) and pour a dram of each. All the tequilas get aged in American oak barrels and the blanco is the youngest, spending only 45 days in the barrel. Like wine, you first want to sniff the tequila, lightly though since it’s pure alcohol, and take note of the hue. The blanco is almost clear and you should get a faint nose of vanilla and orange. Herradura’s reposado gets aged for 11 months and comes out much darker with a slight peppery flavor and chocolate taste at the end. The anejo is the richest and darkest of the trio as it’s in the barrel for 49 months and leans towards a more sweet, smoky essence.

No matter what you taste while imbibing, the real goal is to like what you drink. So, there you have it, two unique ways to celebrate Mexican heritage that doesn’t involve anything named Casa Bonita (it exists, I have been there) or involve buckets of frozen margaritas. Of course, if that’s what you want that’s fine too, just don’t cry about waking up coated in tortilla chip crumbs and nacho cheese with the worst headache of your life come Sunday morning.

La Biblioteca
622 3rd Avenue  New York, NY 10017
(212) 808-8110