Chef Geronimo Lopez is returning to the Pearl with fresh flavors and a new restaurant, Botika, slated to open later this summer. Botika will be Lopez's first restaurant, and the second restaurant to open in the venue after the Arcade Midtown Kitchen closed in June 2015.
Lopez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, has always been fascinated by the fusion and culinary evolution of South American cuisine. He has brought his cultural and culinary experiences to kitchens in six different countries, most recently as executive chef and instructor for The Culinary Institute of America at San Antonio, where he instructed CIA students and led the kitchen at NAO Latin Gastro Bar.
After leaving NAO last year, he met with Silver Ventures CEO Kit Goldsbury to discuss a new concept, one that would draw on Lopez's life and cultural experiences. The idea was to develop a more casual dining experience for Pearl visitors and celebrate authentic South American flavors, something that hasn't yet emerged in San Antonio.
"It's something I wanted to do for a long time," Lopez said. “I am really grateful for the Pearl for believing in the project and what we wanted to do."
Botika, named for the popular one-stop neighborhood shops found throughout South America, will be filled with vibrant textiles and color, mood lighting, and music from South America, similar to the places Lopez grew up with back home.
"(Botikas) in South America serve as a pharmacy/boleta/eatery, there's one in every neighborhood," Lopez said, adding that the restaurant's ambiance and dining approach would be different from any other venue at the Pearl.
"This restaurant will not be focused on fine dining," Lopez said, adding that the casual approach would be reflected in the menu's lower price point. "This (will be) a restaurant where people focus on delicious food, and enjoy attentive service. A real hangout for the people."
The menu will feature traditional South American dishes, and "Chifa” (Chinese-Peruvian) and “Nikkei” (Japanese-Peruvian) cuisines, which have heavily influenced South American food culture.
"You cannot see a cuisine in Venezuela or Peru that doesn't have that Asian influence," Lopez said.
Diners will be familiar with various elements of the Asian and Latin dishes like fried rice, ceviche and sushi. But Botika will also serve sweetbreads, steak and pickled onions – dishes that may sound odd to people used to Tex-Mex, but are wildly popular in South America.
On the bar side, Botika will serve classic cocktails and offer a wide selection of rums, piscos, and cachaças. The restaurant will also offer South American wines with generous pours, and the restaurant is working with several local breweries to create beers that pair well with Botika's food.
Lopez hopes to open the restaurant's doors by June, and expects to celebrate the opening with music, a sushi-ceviche bar, and a cocktail lounge. Botika will operate at normal dining hours during the week, but Lopez says the restaurant will offer late night hours on the weekend, a unique for restaurants in San Antonio.
"Here, dinner is more of a social event than anything," Lopez said. "People should want to stay a little bit longer, talk a little more, and enjoy another glass of wine."
Top Image: Chef Geronimo Lopez and Botika's brand image. Photo Courtesy of Giant Noise.