June 21, 2021

Chi Chinese Latin fusion restaurant and bar opens in Miami

In addition to its main dining room, Ch’i at Brickell City Centre will have an outdoor garden, a lounge and a market for to-go ordering.

In addition to its main dining room, Ch’i at Brickell City Centre will have an outdoor garden, a lounge and a market for to-go ordering.

Brickell’s latest destination wants to be your everything — and you can get a sneak peek this week.

Ch’i, a dining-and-nightlife venue from the locally-based Grove Bay Hospitality Group and Breakwater Hospitality Group, opens later this month with four concepts: an outdoor garden, an Asian-themed marketplace, a cocktail lounge and — most importantly, say its creators — a dining room with a menu highlighting Chinese-Latin cuisine.

“We’re a restaurant first,” says Emi Guerra, co-owner of Breakwater, the group behind The Wharf and Rivertail. “We’re a restaurant that happens to throw a good party.”

The 12,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor space, set in the former home of American Harvest on the third floor of Brickell City Centre, includes three full-service bars and two DJ booths. The idea is that Ch’i is a place to dine that turns into a nightlife destination as the evening goes on.

“We wanted to be able to offer something for every occasion or mood,” Guerra says. “If you’re at Brickell City Centre and have been shopping and want to grab a drink and be casual, we have an outdoor garden. For celebrating a special occasion, there’s the restaurant and lounge. Everything in between is catered to, too.”

The Garden on the open air terrace and the Mercado, which open with limited hours June 3, are adjacent and share a menu. In the Garden, you can sit at tables or in cabanas amid greenery and order dim sum, small plates, salads, wok dishes and rotisserie. DJs will bring the soundtrack in the evenings and on the weekends. Want to enjoy a meal in your quiet condo instead? Head over to the Mercado and order at the counter for grab-and-go service.

If you walk through the wooden door at the back of the Mercado, you’ll find the Lounge, with a mirrored wall, a bar, lounge seating and paper lanterns bobbing overhead.

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The lounge at Ch’i in Brickell City Centre. MICHAEL PISARRI

The main dining room offers a menu of Chinese-Latin fusion from Peruvian-born chef Rafael Perez Cambana, who worked in the kitchens of the Setai in South Beach and the Mandarin Oriental Miami. Expect a similar yet slightly more elaborate menu, with items like shrimp enchilados dumplings; ropa vieja spring rolls; grilled octopus and ceviches and tiraditos.

Signature dishes include Peking roasted duck tacos and a 32-ounce porterhouse with black pepper soy sauce, smoked chili sauce and lemongrass ginger chimichurri.

“Chino-Latino cuisine is underrepresented here in Miami,” says Ignacio Garcia-Menocal, co CEO of Grove Bay, the team behind such restaurants as Red Rooster Overtown, Glass & Vine, Stubborn Seed and Stiltsville Fish Bar. “So many Latin American cuisines have a Chinese influence. Our chef will be taking different ingredients and putting them together in ways people haven’t seen before.”

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Inside Ch’i at Brickell City Centre. MICHAEL PISARRI

The journey to the opening has been a long one. Guerra and Garcia-Menocal, friends since they attended Miami’s Columbus High together, have been working on the concept for two years. The pandemic slowed their ability to hire for 125 positions (Ch’i offered $1,000 signing bonuses to draw new hires, the Miami New Times reported). They also received blowback over the concept’s original name, Los Chinos, which was criticized on social media as being racially and culturally tone-deaf.

Garcia-Menocal says the decision to change the name after the outcry was “the right choice.”

“We were already in the process of looking at other names when the comments were made,” he says. “We don’t want to come off as being racially or culturally insensitive.”

“Ch’i” means “energy,” he says, which in his mind is a far more fitting name for the venue: “That really describes what this thing is going to be.”

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One of the three full-service bars at Ch’i in Brickell. MICHAEL PISARRI

Ch’i

Where: 701 S Miami Ave., #339, Brickell City Centre, Miami

Opening: June 18

Hours: Starting June 3, the Garden and Mercado are open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday. Regular hours beginning June 18 are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday at Mercado and Garden; 6-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday at dining room and lounge.

Reservations: chibrickell.com or 305-257-8726

Connie Ogle loves wine, books and the Miami Heat. Please don’t make her eat a mango.