A Bold New Vision On The Las Vegas Strip
Meet Chica at The Venetian, the latest from Chef Lorena Garcia. #sponsored
August 14, 2017
This article is brought to you in collaboration with our partners at Chica Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is an emotional rollercoaster. You know this, even if you’ve never been.
There’s the anticipation during the flight, and then the agony of the bracing heat as your wait for a cab. There’s the euphoric glee of checking into your hotel, followed immediately by the humiliation of losing $30 on a Britney Spears themed slot machine. It’s a town of high highs and of the lowest lows, and getting through it without sustaining yourself completely on dollar Jello shots and buffets takes planning and know-how.
There are vast ways to eat in Las Vegas, but few are…shall we say, particularly compelling for a discerning palate. Historically, if you wanted that kind of excitement you had to embrace the risks of going off-Strip, but now there’s an enticing new player in the game—right in the center of all the action.
Chica Las Vegas, a new dining experience from John Kunkel of 50 Eggs and Chef Lorena Garcia, is a Latin American tableau so wide-ranging it’s incomparable to anything else around it. It eclipses Peruvian cuisine, or Mexican, or Venezuelan; by combining the best techniques and traditions of the diaspora, it generates a thoughtful (and flawlessly executed) new lens for the modern diner.
“To finally see it become a reality is a dream come true, to be honest,” Garcia says. “In the fullest sense of the word.”
Outside The Venetian, a glittering homage to Renaissance-era Venice with its own Restaurant Row, photographs of culinary heavyweights like Thomas Keller and Emeril Lagasse adorn the “Wall of Culinary Titans.” Now, with the opening of Chica, so does Garcia. She’s the first woman to do so.
“You can't even imagine what it means for me to be the first Latina and first [woman] at the Strip,” she says. “I didn't have a real sense of what was actually there, and it never crossed my mind — but to be able to break through that and open the door for female chefs in an industry that has been dominated by men is a priority to me.”
Garcia speaks like a bullet train, fast and efficient, the result of years spent running kitchens and captivating hungry television audiences. Many dishes on Chica’s menu harken back to the food of her upbringing in Caracas, she explains, but they’re taken to a level befitting a luxury experience like The Venetian. There are empanadas and arepas and buñuelos; there’s Venezuelan-style asado negro with short rib, and Oaxacan mole over a New York steak. It’s a comprehensive education of Latin cuisine, with an energy to match—and that’s intentional.
“[In Vegas,] you need to understand who your customers are,” Garcia admits. “[Chica is] the food of my region, everything that represents who I am today as a chef, but at the same time, people come to the Strip and want the food that they know.”
The food that they know and the food that they want may soon be two different things. Chica is an image of what one hopes is the new Vegas: a place for bold vision, bolstered by an adventurous public.
Hungry? Find out what Chef Garcia would order from Chica’s kitchen, and where the best spots in the neighborhood are hiding.