• Wednesday , 13 December 2017

Soak in Ambiance, Enjoy Latin Flair at Aqimero in Revamped Ritz Carlton

Photos, story by Cassie Hepler

What was once a frilly bank, you can now sit and dine in marble splendor at celebrity chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval’s first restaurant in Philadelphia, Aqimero.

To make things even more fancy pants, the Ritz-Carlton hotel got a makeover where the restaurant is the hub in the middle by the skylight and chandeliers. And don’t worry, your broke ass can now afford to enjoy the ambiance with an ever-changing happy hour at the bar only, beginning with $1.50 Oysters, $7 cocktails, $6 wines and $5 draft beers Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Or you can try the bottomless brunch option on weekends with or without drinks.

The restaurant is part of a multi-million dollar redesign at the hotel, which also includes new guest rooms, meeting spaces and a refreshed lobby. The 206-seat restaurant is located in the marble lobby, which is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome (with the same marble stone), and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When we popped in for a quick tasting, new to the team chef Michael Boné from Florida was preparing our surprise menu with the telltale “made from scratch” approach and focused on sustainable seafood for us but also has steaks, ribs and poultry. Guests can select hand-blended marinades to complement their grilled fish or meat of choice, which boasts a unique flavor from the restaurant’s wood-fired grill and smoker. Spanish Octopus, Ahi Tuna, U12 Shrimp, King Pacific Salmon, Wild Striped Bass, Whole Maine Lobster, Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, Skirt Steak, Porterhouse, Jidori Half Chicken and BBQ Lamb Ribs will be staples, with seasonal and specialty items available.   A whole-roasted snapper will be served “Mexican beach campfire style” with a rich tomato and chili adobo, avocado, warm tortillas, chayote slaw & limes.  The Seafood and Raw Bar offers a combination of raw bar favorites including Mussels, Clams, Oysters, Shrimp Cocktail and Lobster Tail, alongside an impressive assortment of unique sushi and ceviche. Salads and savory sides round out the menu, with refreshing, seasonal craft cocktails, an international wine list and wide selection of Mezcal, which is currently hovering around 60 but aiming for 70, the largest selection in the city.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

We were seated next to the theater window with a gorgeous view of the sky high ceilings.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

We focused on the corinthian columns for this shot at Aqimero Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

A popular place to hang out is near the raw bar of course while eating copious amounts of seafood.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

The glass “walls” give some sort of separated space to the design at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

The chandelier sparkles from the skylight above and has places to sit or stand in a large marble circle at Aqimero in the Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton skylight

The skylight sends rays of heavenly light down into the gigantic room at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

The play on light shining through glass is sheer ambiance perfection at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

Walking inside the doors, you are immediately greeted by this lovely lady and lead to your table or lounge if you like at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

A very Romanesque bronze statue probably survived the renovation at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

A peak into some of the lounge seating behind the glass wall at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

A popular after work spot and for travelers, we spotted many suits and blazers at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

This little nook behind the raw bar would make a perfect spot for ladies night as we saw many women gathering here at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

We had the perfect window theater to watch the chefs prepare our mystery food, it was fun to guess what we were eating next at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

Chef Michael Boné himself came out to greet us and explain each course in detail. He was super curious as to what our favorites were… read on to find out!

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

First course was bbq eel and foie gras sushi with black sticky rice which tasted much like candy and went down as quickly as well at Aqimero in Ritz Carlton. It was Explore writer Deja Cromartie’s first time with both eel and foie gras and she loved it so much we shared the last piece.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

What we wanted was the French Canard-Duchêne but they were out however the trusty Moët & Chandon champagne never disappoints.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

Trying mezcal for her first time as well, Cromartie was in love with the smoky flavor it gave this fun, fizzy drink, the M&M with mandarin, lime cucumber and rosemary at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

Lobster tacos with salsa and black bean puree were creamy, tasty and petite and three could easily be eaten by one person at Aqimero at Ritz Carlton.

Aqimero Ritz Carlton

One of my all time favorite dishes (there are so many) is Spanish grilled octopus on a bed of arugula. This delicious dish was soaked and saturated in all sorts of flavors for hours on end before finally grilled and cooked to perfection with the consistency of a perfectly cooked mushroom.

Aqimero at Ritz Carlton dessert

Chocolate sphere served over chocolate soil and granola greeted us for dessert. We nicknamed it the chocolate ball with a nice tangy ice cream and granola to add some carbs to the meal.

Aqimero at Ritz Carlton mezcal flight

Last but certainly not least, we chose Sandoval’s Selection mezcal flight with salted worms (tangy taste extra salty) and salted grasshopper (earthy, gritty taste) served in Catholic candle votives from the Vatican. Think of mezcal as tequila’s more sophisticated brother. Sacrilicious indeed, the smoky and sweet mezcal being our favorite, the least favorite the one with meat drippings inside. A solid flight though that left us warm, fuzzy and giggling down the street. Note: These are sippers, not shooters.

Richard Sandoval has opened nearly 40 restaurants across the globe in the last 20 years, taking his brand from a single restaurant in New York to locations in Dubai, Mexico and Qatar. Touted as the “Father of Modern Mexican”, Richard Sandoval is world-renowned for combining Latin ingredients with international flavors and inventive techniques to create new and unexpected concepts.

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