JMA’s third exploration of a magical narrative experience in fine-dining with Cordua Restaurants, set in the tony River Oaks enclave of Houston. Every design element tells stories of the Americas consistent with Chef Michael Cordua’s avant-garde North American fusion riffs on traditional South and Central American dishes.
The award-winning, Nicaraguan-born Chef Michael Cordua commissioned JMA to design a 900 square meter fine-dining restaurant. The design provides more than 300 interior seats and 40 exterior seats on the upper level of a 1930’s shopping center in Houston, Texas.
Chef Cordua is celebrated for his
contemporary North American dishes which combine traditional pan-south American recipes with ingredients indigenous to the Americas using European preparation techniques.
The illuminated façade is layered
in a graffiti of bronze relief images inspired by ancient Peruvian Nazca lines, Inca gold figures and graffiti from Rio De Janeiro, as are door handles and special tables and felt murals.
Inside, guests move through nine
terraced spaces, connected by ramps, each with a different personality. To create flexibility to accommodate special groups and create more energy, all of the furnishings and many partitions are moveable.
A raised private dining room (+30cm) overlooks the bar and may be closed with a moveable red felt partition (the material of cowboy-hats). The bar is populated with Hoodie barstools (with skinny jeans) and has access to the terrace.
Another private room with a chocolate brown wool felt partition also overlooks the dining room.
Materials were chosen to be durable and thus sustainable, to develop patinas instead of maintenance issues. Elements were sourced and produced near the site, are often recycled and never made in China nor chosen from a catalog. The palette includes regional mahogany, American ebony, recycled cast-bronze and cast-aluminum, recycled fabricated-bronze and oxidized-steel, hand-blown Chicago glass, wool-felt, burlap, saddle leather, upholstery leather, 100% raw cotton denim, integrally-colored, Kevlar-reinforced non combustible resin, Texas granite.
The dining room is organized by a rhythm of 2 meter-tall hugging love-seats the color of chocolate or coffee, centered under chandeliers of felt and hand blown Rasta lamps; they share the room with Hoodie chairs, classic leather brasserie booths, and Pitcher Plant lamps made from recycled bronze and inspired by an endangered and carnivorous south American plant. Sculptures celebrate American foodstuffs: beans (in couples and threesomes) and corn (Americans have celebrated with popcorn for 3000 years).
The lounge is implied by four leather-covered sculptures placed between the bar and a terraced dining room.
Like Chef Cordua’s dishes, the design tells a uniquely Pan American story with original elements inspired by pre-historic American culture and contemporary urban street culture. Like the Chef’s food, each component is handmade from scratch, produced in America.
Abstracted sculptures inspired by squash, beans and corn, the foundation foods that led to the American Green Revolution, show up throughout the restaurant
A raised Board Room overlooks the dining room. It has a New American flag, a Northern heart and a Southern heart embracing near Nicaragua, the chef’s birthplace.
Research, Influences and Inspiration: “100 Years of Solitude” by the Nobel prize winning Columbian magical-realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez; the graffiti of Rio De Janeiro; teenagers in hoodies and skinny jeans; Panamanian Kuna molas (patterns once used for body painting that were translated into embroidered clothing during the Spanish colonization of the area); Texas cowboy clothing, including felt hats, hand-sewn boots, silver belt buckles and 6-guns; “Guns Germs and Steel”, a work of anthropology by biologist Jared Diamond; the Three Sisters (squash, beans and corn) the foundation of the American Green Revolution that allowed the population to grow to 100 million and become so culturally and technologically advanced; “Blood Meridian” a surreal novel about the war between the Europeans, Mexicans and Indians for Texas by the American novelist Cormak McCarthy; gold sculptures of the Inca; the book “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by anthropologist Charles Mann:, creatures depicted in the enormous ancient geo-glyphs in the Nazca desert in Southern Peru; “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanche, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History” by S.C. Gwynne.
Materials and Components Limited edition, American-couture studio-furnishings were invented for the project. They were produced in Chicago and Houston by artists, craftsmen and factories in just eleven weeks using rapid-prototyping and manufacturing techniques refined by the design team over 25 years and relying equally upon skilled hand-work and digital design and production methods.
Toilet rooms feature illuminated Soul Window mirrors and cast recycled-bronze sink-bowls. The vestibule leading to thetoilet rooms has mirrored walls etched with patterns abstracted from 160-year old six-guns, inventions that allowed Europeans to win Texas from the Comanche.
Design Architect / Interior Design: Jordan Mozer & Associates, Ltd
Lighting Design: Jordan Mozer & Associates, Ltd
Furniture Design: Jordan Mozer & Associates, Ltd
Art Work: Jordan Mozer & Associates, Ltd
Graphics: Jordan Mozer & Associates, Ltd
Product Design and Associated Manufacturing: Mozer Studios
Photography: Doug Snower (Architectural) Eliza Mozer (Objects)
Mai Pham of Forbes Magazine’s article “Houston’s most beautiful dining room”
You get a bit of an Alice in Wonderland feeling when you step out of the elevator, which acts as the main entrance to award-winning chef Michael Cordúa’s flagship restaurant, Américas. Designed by Jordan Mozer, whose résumé includes Nectar at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Bellagio in Las Vegas and Vivere in Chicago, the first thing you might notice is the paucity of flat planes — everything is arched instead of angular, as if to capture the inherent sensuality of Cordúa’s South American heritage. Then, there are the jutting 3-D popcorn-shaped wall structures, the intricate ribbon-like red weave that forms an accent wall, handmade wooden chairs shaped like animal forms, and the looming crescents of smooth wood spliced together like large flower petals to form each booth. But the restaurant’s most striking aspect is the light: The handmade deep red wool lighting fixtures, shaped like upside down exotic flowers, are meant to represent a rainforest canopy. The overall effect is otherworldly and exotic, a place out of time and the perfect showcase for Cordúa’s modern South American cuisine such as the empanadas filled with beef, chicken, spinach or shrimp and pork, or the grilled swordfish churrasco with grilled shrimp.”
June 2011: Design Sponge: Americas: “Michael Cordua is one of Houston’s most famous chefs, and his Americas is the centerpiece of a mini-empire. Americas mixes Central and South American cuisine in truly remarkable ways, most notably the famous Churrasco (a high end aged steak with chimichurri and béarnaise), but don’t miss the famous empanadas! The interior decor is so whimsical and creative, the newest location is at River Oaks and is one of the biggest and the best.”
“Best Restaurants in Houston, TX" by Robin Barr Sussman
Chef Michael Cordua’s unique menu of South American/New World cuisine matches the futuristic rainforest setting designed by Chicago architectural firm Jordan Mozer + Assoc. Ltd. Exciting upscale dining: potato encrusted red snapper, roasted pork tenderloin with bold roasted pepper sauce, grilled salmon with limey ceviche beurre blanc, and taquito de cordoniz (quail tacos). The tres leches is legendary…”
About Us ”The third incarnation of Americas, the global culinary experience from famed chef and restaurateur, Michael Cordua, is now open in the heart of River Oaks. Partnered once again with celebrated architecture and design firm Jordan Mozer + Associates, Ltd., who brought his outstanding talent and vision to the original Americas in 1993, Americas River Oaks will be a unique dining experience that represents the weaving of South, Central and North American cultures and cuisinesfrom Alaska to Chile. Cordua, whose reputation as one of the leading proponents of authentic Latin cuisine, returns to his foundational roots and creates a stage to showcase the yummy foods that the Americas have given to the world. Continually blazing a trail of New World cuisine that keeps critics raving, FOOD & WINE recognized Cordua as one of the pioneers of the modernization of Latin cuisine when naming him into the Hall of Fame: 50 Best New Chefs of all time in 2008.
Houstonia magazine: Americas is “the temple of Latin fusion cuisine”
Tablelog on Americas, “…Upon entering the River Oaks location of Américas, delightfully decadent décor oozes past the entrance, making its way around the corner to the bar. Before soaking in the mysteriously uncertain situation, the décor story quickly emerged...Jordan Mozer is not messing around. I asked executive chef David Cordúa if this guy is somewhat naturally nuts, but it appears he’s simply stellar with naturally creative talent.”