Can you spot these 6 unique hospitality details while dining at Oteque?

Chloe Vialou-Clark - 24/11/2022

Celebrated for its meticulous Brazilian fare and masterful service, Oteque was awarded the Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award at Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022. Chef Alberto Landgraf takes 50 Best through every inch of his restaurant’s success, from the standout seafood to the specialised soundtrack

“When you dine in a restaurant, the first things you notice are the food, wine and the service,” begins Alberto Landgraf, “but they say the devil is in the details, so that’s what I focus on.”

Landgraf’s scrupulous eye has undoubtedly brought Oteque to the forefront of Rio de Janeiro’s dining scene. In the four years since it opened – a blink of an eye in restaurant terms – Oteque has debuted on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, leaped up the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list to an impressive No.12 in 2022, and most recently, has taken home the coveted Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award.

Here are six ways in which Oteque’s hospitality is a cut above the rest.
Alberto Landgraf received the award on stage from Osteria Francescana's Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore

1. The soundscape makes the difference

“You really feel like you know everything when you open your first restaurant, but of course, I did make mistakes,” says Landgraf with a laugh as he reminisces about his first project, Epice in São Paulo, which closed in 2016. “When I moved to Rio to open my second venue, Oteque, I tried to pay close attention to my guests and notice indirect feedback. Often, I’ve heard people in restaurants say that it was far too noisy, so I introduced a soundproof ceiling.”

To further enhance the experience, all the tables are circular, so that guests can make direct eye contact during the meal. Diners sign up for an evening of eclectic music from Landgraf’s carefully selected playlist and great conversation.

“Nobody leaves thinking: ‘how great was that soundproof ceiling?’ It’s a tiny detail,” he says. “But that’s my job: to prepare the restaurant so that guests have the best possible experience.”

2. Symmetry unlocks serenity

Six tables, an open kitchen and an aquarium sit in Oteque’s dining room – all of which are perfectly proportioned. “If you slice our restaurant exactly in half, each side is a mirror of the other. While I was planning the layout, I thought: hopefully I’m going to look at this room all day, every day for the next 20 years. If anything was out of place, it was going to drive me crazy!”

The symmetry continues amongst the staff, who weave seamlessly around the diners in perfect unison. “We only have six tables, so we have a lot of interaction with our guests, but no one bumps into each other because we implement floor circulation in the dining room,” says Landgraf.
The interior of Oteque, located in Rio de Janeiro's Botafogo neighbourhood

3. A balanced team makes a memorable meal

“I had the idea that chefs and front-of-house members should dress the same, so people wouldn’t know who is either a cook or a waiter. There’s no hierarchy, it’s very horizontal,” says Landgraf of his team philosophy.

Furthering his quest for equality in the restaurant, the chef heads a completely gender balanced team. “But I think that should be an obligation, not a talking point, for restaurants operating at our level,” he observes. “We need to have women in leadership positions, especially in a country like Brazil, where we still have social issues.”

Balance, equality and a supportive working environment are cornerstones for Oteque’s success. “A good restaurant has to go beyond top ingredients and creative dishes – our people need to be as happy as the guests,” says Landgraf.
Landgraf (bottom row, fourth from left) with chefs from Brazilian restaurants on the red carpet at Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants 2022

4. The flavours of Brazil are woven into the fabric

“When you open the door of Oteque, you’re basically on the beach, and Rio is probably one of the most famous beach towns in the world. In such a hot climate, there’s no way I could serve stews and heavy meats,” Landgraf explains.

Instead, fish and seafood dominate the menu, which is designed to be lighter and leaner. Signature dishes include slipper lobster glazed on embers, served with fish head mayonnaise, pickled apple and lobster coral; and pickled sardine and raw foie gras on brioche bread.

“The concept of the menu is about where I am: time and place. It’s my homage to the city. And it’s just lucky that I prefer eating fish, anyway!”
One of Oteque's signature dishes: steamed oyster and pork skin in pork spine broth

5. Dietary requirements are welcome

“As a chef, you always need to adapt to the times you’re living in,” reflects Landgraf. “Nowadays, lots of guests ask for vegan or gluten free menus. I want those people to feel special when they eat at Oteque.”

Having always had a severe egg allergy, Landgraf was conscious of creating additional work for chefs in restaurants. “When I get a replacement dish like a salad, which requires minimal effort, it’s disappointing and I didn’t want my guests to feel the same way.”

Oteque’s tasting menu is completely gluten free, and only slight changes are needed to cater for guests who prefer a plant-based meal – an ideal solution for both the diners and the cooks.

6. Happiness comes first

A simple yet powerful philosophy underpins every aspect of Landgraf’s work at Oteque: “The initial idea behind the restaurant wasn’t about showcasing ingredients, perfecting techniques or repeating concepts that chefs have finessed before. I wanted a simple place for people to have a meal and go home happy. I think that’s what hospitality is,” he concludes.

The list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, was announced on Tuesday 15th November. Follow us on Instagram, like us on Facebook, find us on Twitter, tag #LatAm50Best and subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest news.