Travels with Chica
The opening of Chica at The Venetian celebrates the arrival of celebrity chef Lorena Garcia to Las Vegas. It also marks the return of executive chef Mike Minor to the Strip, where he formerly served as executive chef of Border Grill. In Chica, Minor showcases his versatility with Latin American cuisine in a menu crossing geographic boundaries—you can travel the hemisphere with a single dining experience.
Begin your journey in Venezuela with the empanadas pabellon—crispy masa encloses a mixture of savory and sweet consisting of braised ground beef, sweet plantains and black beans. Served atop a spicy gausacaca pico, the dish will make a robust beginning for your culinary tour. Also from Venezuela, asado negro arepas top slightly sweet brown sugar discs of maize with hearty braised short rib.
Going farther south, a fork-tender grilled Peruvian octopus intermingles with crispy quinoa and blistered shishito peppers, while a spicy aji amarillo contributes ample heat mellowed slightly by the cephalopod’s smokiness. If you’re a little hesitant of octopus due to its fabled chewiness, rest assured Minor will make you a convert.
Also from Peru is one of the Strip’s more creative side dishes: the wonderfully misnamed mac con queso. The dish has nary a macaroni in sight; instead, the ubiquitous pasta is playfully replaced with choclo, a large-kernel Peruvian corn, strewn with hearts of palm and spinach in a Parmesan cream gratin. You’ll never look at mac and cheese in the same way again.
Chica has made a strong effort to craft creative cocktails, with wildly successful results. The Flor de la Pina is well-balanced, mixing blanco tequila with a hibiscus-habanero syrup exuding hints of heat and sweet. And the Instagram-ready Nazca Winter is a take on the Peruvian pisco sour, arriving at your table billowing with cinnamon-scented fog from sublimating dry ice. But rest assured, this drink is more than just another pretty face.
Returning to the menu in Mexico, the Oaxacan strip steak delivers a meaty New York strip adorned with complex Oaxacan black mole complementing the heartiness of the cut of meat. And in a classic case of gilding the lily, Minor pairs the magnificent meat with a charred wild mushroom quesadilla oozing with sharp Point Reyes blue cheese. The addition of earthy huitlacoche, akin to mushrooms, makes the side so good, it deserves its own place on the menu. If you’re still hungry, order the innovative Hoppin’ Jose rice—a play on the Hoppin’ John popular in the southeastern U.S.—skillet-fried jasmine rice tossed with black-eyed peas and topped with creamy avocado.
For dessert, churro-fried ice cream pops await. Caramel ice cream pops, with a pretzel stick substituting for an ice cream stick, are coated in cinnamon churro crumble for a take on the traditional Mexican street food. Or dive into tres leches dulce de leche, which combines the milk-laden and sweetened tres de leches sponge cake with a caramelized dulce de leche in a combination of Mexican dessert favorites. Traveling was never so tasty!
The Venetian, 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-midnight Sat.-Sun. 866.659.9643