Andres kept mum on his plans for the restaurant for a while. But he revealed them during a lunch at Minibar with Quique Dacosta, a three-star Michelin chef from Denia, Spain, who was in town for a visit. If you were wondering: It wasn’t going to be a Mexican restaurant, as nice of a face-slap as that might have been. But it is an immigrant story.
“The concept I was thinking was Spanish-Japanese — mainly Spanish, with touches of Japan,” he said.
His idea is grounded in an interesting historical detail, he explained. In 1613, Japan sent a ship full of diplomats to negotiate trade with Spain’s King Philip III. Led by Hasekura Tsunenaga, a samurai of noble descent, they sailed to Mexico, crossed overland, and sailed across the Atlantic, arriving near Seville. Hasekura continued on to Rome, where he was honored in a nobleman’s portrait by Archita Ricci. But he left members of his crew in the Spanish town Coria del Río, where they became a part of the community and married locals, giving their children the surname Hasekura de Japón. The first part of that name was eventually dropped, and there are now about 650 people with the surname Japón in Coria del Rio today. Andres thought about what would have happened if those samurai had been chefs, too.
“It was this kind of funny connection in history,” said Andres. “That was the concept I was dreaming for that place.”
He told reporters at the lunch that he never officially named the restaurant, though legal filings use the name Topo Atrio LLC. He hopes he will open it one day, somewhere else.
“I always tell people, we don’t open businesses and we don’t open restaurants. We tell stories.”