At Chica, celebrity chef Lorena Garcia lives out her live-fire dreams with a Josper oven, a rotisserie and a custom-made Mibrasa wood-fired grill. On a recent Saturday night, she arrives at our table to present a tomahawk steak that’s been cooked in the Josper over Brazilian oak and charcoal. She stirs queso fundido with Oaxaca cheese and housemade spicy salsa in a molcajete. She gives us tortillas and encourages us to make a quesadilla. While this is happening, guests are dancing to live music near the front of the restaurant. And all around us we hear servers greet customers by saying, “Welcome to Chica, a Latin steakhouse.”
And then, after being sliced, our tomahawk is engulfed in flames alongside an array of colorful peppers for a Vegas steakhouse spectacle. The food is delicious, the fun is undeniable.
Chica, which recently went through an extensive renovation and was rebranded as a steakhouse, is part of a meaty movement in Las Vegas. Great chefs on and off the Strip are redefining the idea of a steakhouse. Think hot seafood towers, Wagyu cheesesteak bites and even a literal smoke show before you swish steak in a hot pot.
Here’s a look at four new Vegas steakhouses that are changing the game.
“I think there is a whole segment of people who would prefer to go to a fantastic meal with great service and great wine, and stay and drink and have fun and not go to a nightclub,” says 50 Eggs Hospitality Group CEO John Kunkel, who’s merging dining with entertainment at his Vegas restaurants like Chica and the new Wakuda.
At Chica inside the Venetian resort, guests can see the action in a new live-fire kitchen where cowboy steaks and a parrillada with skirt steak, tenderloin, pinchos, lamb, chorizo and chicken are cooked. During Chica Nights on the weekends, live bands or DJs encourage revelry with Latin, pop and crossover music. Chef Lorena Garcia’s Latin steakhouse menu includes watercress Caesar salad, Nikkei-style tuna tartare, oven-roasted Peruvian octopus, wood-fired mushroom barbacoa, Wagyu empanadas, roasted street corn and papas bravas. For dessert, there’s tres leches cake and a churro bouquet. And it turns out that a flaming skull with warm lava cake, horchata ice cream, fruit and corn marshmallows is more festive and memorable than any baked Alaska you can find at old-school steakhouses.
“We didn’t want to dumb down the food or the music or the cultural experience, but we did recognize that we had to make it approachable,” explains Kunkel, who says the evolution of Chica into a Latin steakhouse was driven by listening to his customers in both Miami and Las Vegas. “When you introduce food that’s outside of the mainstream, you have to make it approachable.”
And, really, what’s more approachable than eating with your hands and making a quesadilla?
Chef Gina Marinelli’s classically elegant but thoroughly modern steakhouse has the energy of the most bustling Strip restaurants even though it’s more than 11 miles away from the Las Vegas Boulevard action. Located at Downtown Summerlin—a new-school shopping, dining, entertainment and events center development—Harlo stands out with its over-the-top interpretations of steakhouse fare.
A fire-roasted seafood tower is loaded with lobster, king crab, bay scallops, prawns, mussels, clams and the distinct flavors of smoked chili butter and charred lemon. You’ll obviously want to dip the accompanying toasted baguette into the spicy and briny liquid or ask for a pasta add-on that soaks up the essence of this show-stopping seafood presentation.
Marinelli’s luxury-minded playfulness and creativity shows up in a caviar trio that includes a caviar taco, caviar cannoli and caviar deviled egg. Or you can order caviar service with spiced crisps, gnocco fritto and potato latkes. A wedge salad is topped with house-smoked pastrami, and a Caesar salad has delightful anchovy croutons (yes, anchovies inside the croutons). Snake River Farms rib eye cap, 28-day dry-aged Flannery Beef bistecca alla fiorentina and Icon Wagyu New York strips are among the impressive steak options that you can pair with lobster tails, king crabs or grilled tiger prawns for a surf-and-turf extravaganza. Harry’s Berries strawberry cheesecake and the Harlo chocolate dream with four different chocolate preparations (cake, mousse, croquant and ganache) are a perfect ending.
Long-time Vegas scene-maker Sean Christie has opened the best new steakhouse on the Strip. At Carversteak inside the Resorts World Las Vegas casino, chef Daniel Ontiveros displays fine-dining finesse with a 2-pound Maine lobster en croûte that’s plated and sauced tableside. You’ll obviously want to break the puff pastry into little pieces and enjoy it with the lobster-Cognac cream.
Another tableside show is brought to you by high-profile mixologist Francesco Lafranconi, who recently launched a Martini cart with drinks that are shaken, stirred or rolled in front of you. This is a lot of Instagrammable fun, and everything from the Vespers to the dry Martinis is made with care and beautifully balanced.
The steak selection, including dry-aged Flannery Beef and Japanese, Australian and American Wagyu, is strong. And Ontiveros upgrades cheesesteaks by making appetizer-size Wagyu sandwiches with aged provolone mornay. Mac-and-cheese gratin with aged cheddar is a terrific side. For a big finish, get the Cookie Monster with three different oversized cookies that are designed to spark childlike joy. For a different kind of spark, an ice cream sundae topped with macarons, a sparkler and sauce that’s poured tableside will remind you that you’re on the Vegas Strip.
The X Pot
This restaurant and nightlife destination, located at the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian resort, flies in beef from Japan daily and features an A5 Miyazaki-Gyu Wagyu feast with cuts that include rib eye cap you swish in spicy hot pot broth, filet mignon nigiri and short rib cubes that are grilled on a Himalayan salt block. The presentation, involving tableside smoke and Wagyu that shows up on a bronze cow, is pure Vegas excess and a fun alternative to popping bottles at XS. For even more excess, there are dancing-noodle shows and private rooms where you can enjoy immersive backgrounds projected from every angle.
If your idea of a great night out involves Wagyu dumplings, Wagyu tartare, Wagyu sashimi, Wagyu sushi, Wagyu truffle macaroni, Wagyu katsu, Wagyu skewers and Wagyu sukiyaki along with your Wagyu hot pot, then the X Pot is your spot.
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