Richard Sandoval’s New Mag Mile Restaurant Dives Into Peru’s Nikkei Cuisine

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Chicago

A flaming tiki drink
Casa Chi is a new restaurant from Richard Sandoval Hospitality that seves drinks like this flaming Sakura Maru.
Richard Sandoval Hospitality

Casa Chi is now open at the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile

Four years after COVID lockdowns shuttered Richard Sandoval Hospitality’s massive food hall Latinicity, the celebrity chef is returning to Chicago and opening a new cocktail lounge within the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile.

Casa Chi focuses on the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavors known as Nikkei. Riesler Morales, who serves as head of mixology for Sandoval’s empire of more than 60 restaurants and bars spread across four continents, developed a menu that includes a gibson made with coconut-fat washed mezcal and lactofermented cucumber, and green tea-infused pisco blended with passionfruit, lychee, and kumquat. Casa Chi also offers 142 varieties of mezcal and tequila plus a selection of sake and Japanese beers.

The space formerly occupied by Eno Wine Bar doesn’t have a kitchen, so Sandoval’s menu is focused on raw bites like ceviche and tiradito. There’s also a selection of meat and seafood such as wagyu ribeye and scallop antichurro cooked on a 500-degree stone at the table.

“People might walk out of here smelling like smoke,” Sandoval says with a laugh. “You have mezcal, which is a very smoky spirit, so it all fits. I don’t think a lot of people are used to experiencing Nikkei and I want them to come here and experience all these different bold flavors.”

There’s room for 50 inside, where the centerpiece is a ceiling mural from Kate Lewis, an artist whose work can also be seen at Sketchbook Brewing in suburban Skokie. A 30-seat patio is expected to open later this summer.

The concept was inspired by a trip Sandoval took to Peru last year with his children, Giancarlo and Isabella. They visited three restaurants a day along with markets and stopped at street vendors.

“It was their first research & development trip with me, so that was super exciting,” Sandoval said. “They got to see how my mind works and how I see things. It’s a lot of information to download to my children. It’s not just about the food but how I built this and how they’re going to interact with different people.”

A close up over a colorful ceviche dish in a shallow bowl.
Ceviche rojo
Richard Sandoval Hospitality

Casa Chi follows last year’s opening of Japanese Mexican cocktail lounge Valedor in Wicker Park in bringing renewed attention to the influence Japan has had on Latin America. Later this year, the fusion global chain Salvaje is coming to Fulton Market. In River North, Tanta has been serving Nikkei cuisine and other Peruvian food for 11 years.

Sandoval will also bring his Toro concept to Chicago this fall after opening a dozen locations that include Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Mexico, and Turkey. Toro breaks from the typical tableside churrascaria for an a la carte Latin steakhouse.

“It made it much more approachable because you can go in and order a bunch of small plates and share a wagyu filet or ribeye,” he says

Returning to Chicago has been a priority for Sandoval since Latinicity closed alongside Sandoval’s Noyane and Baptiste & Bottle within the Conrad Chicago.

“That was a heartbreak,” he says. “I just love Chicago. New York is fast and furious, but Chicago has the big city vibe with great chefs and restaurants but at a much slower pace. I’m super excited to be back. I hope people embrace what we’re doing here.”

Casa Chi opened on Thursday, May 2 but Sandoval still considers it a work in progress. He will run residency programs with chefs from Mexico and mixologist pop-ups once a quarter.

Casa Chi, 505 N. Michigan Ave.; open 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

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