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CHICA makes splashy entrance in Miami

Chef Lorena Garcia’s enthusiasm is contagious. The gregarious chef, known for her colorful appearances on celebrity cooking shows and multiple programs on Telemundo and Univision, and for her successful eateries in airports around the country, is walking us through the menu of her latest opening, the splashy CHICA restaurant occupying the former Soyka space in MiMo.

“I’m super-excited!” she says. “This is me coming back to Miami after so many years.”

This is her second outpost of CHICA, having partnered with local restaurateur John Kunkel of 50 Eggs to open a Las Vegas CHICA two and half years ago. The success of that restaurant spurred them to create a Miami sibling, with its mélange of Latin American flavors and influences tailored to the South Florida palate.

“It’s the same DNA as the Vegas CHICA,” explains Garcia, “but we wanted to make each location reflect the city that it’s in. Miami is where I’m from, I live here. I love the blend of cultures here. I’ve traveled all over the world, so this is a celebration of the best of Latin America as I see it.”

The restaurant itself is a stunner, designed by famed New York design house Rockwell Group.

“With the open kitchen covered in wood and the countertops covered in granite and the arches looking out to graffiti murals, it gives it a very Latin American feel,” Garcia points out.

Gone is the neo-industrial feel of its former identity. Now the dining room is awash in a color palette of terra cottas, brass and rich greens. Large hanging lanterns fashioned of wood and leather create a rustic-yet-cozy feel in the double-height space. Tables of chatty guests are crowded with cocktail glasses, platters of whole-fried fish, churrasco steaks and baskets of arepas. The overall vibe is warm, comforting and, well, muy chic.