Writer BSiegs shares his reviews of Top Chef Master Lorena Garcia’s Chica restaurant at the Venetian.
I am a sucker for good latin food. And being a millennial, obviously, a good brunch. It’s what we do.
As I scrolled through Eater Vegas seeking out a spot for my recent trip, Chica at Venetian jumped off the page. Chica is self-described as, “Crafted by celebrity Latina chef Lorena Garcia, the diverse menu draws inspiration from classic renditions and will give guests the opportunity to explore the flavors of Latin American cuisine as one culture, with influences from Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, among many more.”
Despite being a low-level food snob and devout Top Chef fan, I had no idea who Lorena Garcia was. But regardless, I was sold. The menu looked excellent and the reviews were mostly glowing. I booked a 2:15 PM Sunday reservation and let my buddy Matt know where we would be dining. I’ve made enough good calls over the years that he doesn’t question my picks.
When the day arrived, our Sunday morning was, ahem, a little rougher than expected. We may have Vegas’d a little too hard on Saturday night. As one does. Hungry and hoping to score a table a little early, we showed up at 1:30.
At first glance, Chica is unquestionably alluring. Low lighting, mural-like artwork, trendy but welcoming design, and an overall sexy feel.
Once we stepped inside, the host staff was pleasant but a little confused. We were told a table should be ready in approximately twenty minutes, which was entirely reasonable given that we were forty-five minutes early. We grabbed two seats at the bar and started glancing at the cocktail menu. Looking around, we quickly realized that the restaurant was only half full, which had us a little perplexed as to why we had to wait. Sure enough, I got the text that a table was ready before we could even place a drink order. We were early, so this isn’t a strong critique, but the welcome wasn’t quite as seamless as you’d hope.
We were escorted to a table in the back room and our server gave a fast and pleasant welcome. She was incredibly sweet and very knowledgeable about the menu.
She helped guide our cocktail choices. I had the FW Margarita, which has Fresno chilis for some spice and pressed watermelon juice for some sweetness. They were out of the cocktail that Matt ordered, so he ended up with something on recommendation and we unfortunately never explicitly asked what it was.
I strongly recommend the FW Margarita. Spicy but not hot and sweet but not cloying. Perfectly balanced, it had me feeling good about what was to come. Matt enjoyed his unnamed cocktail too, but mine was definitely the winner.
Our appetizer came on a strong recommendation from our server. The grilled Peruvian octopus, which is served with crispy quinoa, shishito peppers, and a spicy pico.
Divine. The octopus was cooked perfectly. The shishito peppers were lightly charred, which added a great depth of flavor, along with their mild heat. The crispy quinoa added a really nice textural component. This dish was an absolute home run and had Matty and I fighting over the scraps.
In hindsight, the meal peaked here. And given how good the octopus was, that isn’t an embarrassing critique. But the entrees just didn’t hit those same notes.
I got what seems to be their brunch specialty, the Chicken & Waffle. It is marinated rotisserie chicken served with Peruvian peppers on a 5-spice waffle. I’m definitely in the savory breakfast camp, but the chicken and peppers had me confident that the sweetness wouldn’t overwhelm my palate.
For Matt, the breakfast burrito was the order. The burrito is stuffed full of housemade chorizo, scrambled eggs, black beans, rice, and a variety of other goodies. The plate came with some crispy potatoes and dark red sauce on the side.
Both orders were good to very good. But that’s it. No magical unicorn bites, we were still chasing that high from the octopus.
The chicken and waffle was a bit too one-note for me, with a prevailing sweetness that the roast and flavor of the chicken and peppers just couldn’t quite stand up to. For Matt, he reported a good to very good breakfast burrito. But there certainly wasn’t any raving from his side of the table either.
In fact, by this point, we had ordered a couple Green Flash Imperial IPAs to sit alongside our main courses. That was the highlight for me, as it cut the spiciness nicely from my cocktail and two mildly spicy dishes. The hops really popped.
Matt was gracious enough to pick up the bill, so naturally, I didn’t ask too many questions. Therefore, I don’t recall the exact total or have a picture of the bill. I’d estimate around $120 plus tip, which is about what you’d expect for this level of brunch on the Strip with a couple of drinks each. A little overpriced? Sure. But (channels inner Kurt Vonnegut), so it goes.
Overall, I recommend Chica for a good to very good brunch on the Strip. It probably won’t blow you away, but you’ll leave happy. And given that hangover, I walked in with? That was good enough for me.
[Photo Cred. BSiegs]