Sometimes life throws you these feast-or-famine moments. For the Cordúa family, the name behind Churrascos, Artista, Amazon Grille and Americas, this is definitely time of feasting. In addition to seeing its restaurant empire turn 25 years old, founder Michael Cordúa and executive chef David Cordúa are set to open a new Churrascos in Gateway Memorial City along I-10 and Gessner. The 8,400-square-foot space features an open kitchen, a first for the Cordúa brand. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with natural light. The MBH Architects-designed restaurant is the latest in a series of bold moves by the self-taught chef and his Le Cordon Bleu-trained son, who earlier this year tweaked the menu over at Amazon Grill.
In preparation for the December 5 opening, the team has been revamping Churrascos' menu, demoing some items at the family's River Oaks location. The idea is to keep its signature Latin style, while adding in some new touches, including a whole fish (selections change daily), crusted with corn meal and cacao, and served with chorizo Caribbean fried rice, tamarind glaze and a coconut tomatillo sauce; an ahi tuna ceviche with citrus, red chili, basil and a black olive puree; and pork carnitas arepas, crispy pork carnitas and chicharron, black beans, pickled cabbage and cream. The last represents a new sub-category on the menu, with David describing the style as South American corn cakes dressed as flatbreads.
"The additions and menu changes are kind of paying more tribute to our Nicaraguan heritage," says David. "The side plate, for example, that now comes with the dishes features gallo pinto, queso frito, pickled onions, maduros and yuca puffs, which are more typical of Nicaragua. And the whole fried fish is taken from the fish that we do in Nicaragua. The crust is inspired from the pinolillo, which is a corn, cacao and cinnamon tea. One of the things that's really unique about this dish is that we actually remove the bones from the top of the fish and then ply it open so that the breading is on the inside of the fish as well as the outside. We wanted to subtly go a little more micro-regional with the country that we're from, and then also make a more dynamic menu with smaller categories and more subcategories within the larger menu."
As if all that weren't enough, Wednesday night, the family celebrates another milestone, the publication of its first cookbook, Cordúa: Foods of the Americas, with a launch party at its Americas River Oaks location. The book, on sale for the general public in December, showcases 100 recipes from across the four restaurants, as well as telling the story of how Michael followed his passion for food and built the successful franchise, and how David, more than following in his father's footsteps, is helping take the reins in the family biz, and adding his own distinctive touch.
Through it all – the restaurants, the menu change-up, the book – one things remains constant, Michael's insistence that every dish be "Latin and yummy." Along the way, the father and son team have come to discover that they enhance each other's strengths.
"He pushes me out of my comfort zone," says Michael. "And I keep him Latin."