You can tell when a restaurant has deep pockets. The previous restaurant at 5556 North East 4th Court (Soyka) was completely transformed with lots of splash and bedazzle to become a tropical stunner. Opened in November 2019, the former Soyka was sold to John Kunkel of Yardbird fame. This is the second location for Chica, the first residing in the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Both are under a Top Chef master alum, Lorena Garcia. Chef Garcia is originally from Venezuela and resides in Miami. Her menu reflects ingredients and techniques from Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Columbia, Peru, and Mexico. She has an extensive menu. Some items are very good, while others are fair.
The restaurant is quite large, about 10,000 square feet, seating about 165 guests inside, or on the patio. There is also a private dining space that can seat up to 50 and has its own bar. The bar in the main restaurant is the focal point in the center dividing two rooms. The floors are mosaic or flowered concrete. There is street art murals, lots of glass to bring in natural light during the day. Greenery warms up the place, and there are lots of nooks for privacy. You can look into the open kitchen to catch the action. They sat us right next to the dreaded table by the kitchen, even though the place was mostly empty when we arrived.
The cuisine is Latin American and the menu is divided into raw, hot, cold, mains, Argentinian Parrillada, which is a large format smoked meat and fish section prepared on the wood fire grill, plus sides.
We started with a delicious tropical vodka-based drink with lychee flavours. This was a perfect way to start with our guacamole platter, made with Hass avocado, lime, cilantro, chili, and served with plantain chips, homemade tortilla chips, and assorted homemade arepas. I could have just made my dinner from this. There is a half dozen different ceviches on the menu. Our server Frank recommended the tropical Corvina ceviche, with passion fruit, Lecce de Tigre, mango, dragon fruit, mint, red onion, and cilantro. The presentation was lovely and in theory, it sounded wonderful, but in reality, it was fishy and bland. I couldn’t taste any discernible flavours. Ditto for the bay scallop ceviche, in a clementine citrus broth, with celery, chilies, hearts of palm and cilantro. This was a touch better, but not up to my standards. I love a good ceviche. On to the hot section, the Adado negro arepas with braised short rib and fresh pico had a good mix of sweet and spicy but would have been better if served hotter. The grilled Peruvian octopus with crispy quinoa and an aji Amarillo sauce was nice, as was the roasted poblano tamale with braised chicken, and cotija cheese in a molé sauce. Our server pushed the rotisserie chicken over the pumpkin seed crusted lamb chops with zucchini blossoms, saying that rotisserie chicken is more difficult to find? Really? Personally I’ve never had a lamb chop prepared like the one I mentioned but I often have rotisserie chicken. So we went with his suggestion. The chicken was moist but the skin was wet and soft, not crisp. It was in a chimichurri and Meyer lemon sauce, which added a nice flavour. It was served with creamy sauced potato. I would have preferred crispy fried potatoes like I experienced in Peru. Our sides were delicious, sweet/spicy Brussel sprouts topped with pork belly, and sweet potato with pomegranates and pepitas.
For dessert, we couldn’t resist the churro tower. This tower can feed a family of eight. The presentation was Instagram worthy, but the quality of the churros was mediocre.
Chef Garcia has tweaked this menu from the Vegas menu and added some Miami touches like stone crabs.
The heart of the restaurant is the wood-fired oven, fueled with Brazilian hardwood. I think if you choose carefully you can get a desirable meal. Or just come for a drink, and some arepas, and chips, and enjoy the Latin beat.