Now’s a heck of a time to open a new restaurant, but the team behind Chikyū isn’t letting the pandemic stop them.
The opening of the Las Vegas vegan restaurant Chikyū is simply going to be a little … different.
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Chikyū opens during pandemic in Las Vegas
Originally slated for a January opening, permitting issues kept its doors closed. Three days before it was set to open on March 20, Governor Sisolak declared the shutdown of Nevada and Chikyū’s opening was scrapped.
“We’ve been sitting on an empty space ready to serve this entire time,” says Casson Trenor, a sustainability expert and partner in Shizen Restaurant Group, who are behind this restaurant. “It’s difficult — it’s one thing to be a functioning restaurant during this time and then do to-go because people know who you are. It’s entirely different to open a restaurant and build a brand during this period.”
But, that’s what they’re going to do in order to open their doors.
“We figure it’s better to serve a few people than sit as an empty restaurant,” he explains. “We want to do our part getting food out there so we are going to just go for it.”
The first high-end plant-based dining experience in Las Vegas
While it may be hard to tell, this new Las Vegas vegan restaurant marks the debut of the it’s first high-end, entirely plant-based dining experience. You won’t find any Gardein or meat subsitutions here.
Shizen Restaurant Group isn’t a stranger to high-end plant-based dining.
They are the team responsible for the wildly popular plant-based sushi restaurant of the same name in San Francisco. One of the original sushi chefs from Shizen, John Le, left San Fran to relocate to Las Vegas a few years ago. Chikyū marks his first Vegas endeavor.
The concept of the new vegan restaurant in Las Vegas is one that is expected to change over time. Trenor looks back to the opening of Shizen to help explain what Chikyū will become.
“When we opened Shizen, we didn’t really know a lot about what we were doing,” he says. “We were trying to learn as fast as we could and make mistakes and realize portals to growth. As we grew as a group and opened new places, we tried to make better versions of Shizen and how we can do high-end, elegant Japanese cuisine from a purely plant-based perspective.”
With similar bones as Shizen, the plan is for Chikyū to embody the “realities about living in Vegas,” according to Trenor. The restaurant will feature local ingredients … but that’s about as much as the team can commit.
“We don’t know what the final form of that is going to be because the reality is we are doing business in a pandemic,” he says. The restaurant will take influences from the people around it, evolving and creating a newer version that fits with Vegas. “What it’s going to look like is going to be a pleasant surprise for us as well as anyone else.”
Chikyū’s current menu
Desert Gold – fried tofu and tapioca roll topped with spicy tofu, negi, ito togarashi, sesame, microgreens, secret sauce
For now, one thing is certain: the food Chikyū is serving.
While it’s a bit bare bones during the pandemic, the restaurant is Japanese and based around a sushi bar and kitchen, so think sushi and a plant-based version of izakaya (small plates to share). It’s also nearly entirely gluten-free.
The menu features exotic dishes that are new to the plant-based world in Las Vegas.
They’re operating a limited menu for the time being, but plan on adding to it regularly. Now, you can find some extravagant sushi creations like tomato nigiri with ginger shoyu marinade, shisho and sea salt; pickled green mango nigiri topped with matcha sea salt; and specialty rolls tapping into desert blooms including the Stream Orchid made with grilled enoki mushrooms, takuan and avocado and topped with shredded tofu, tomato, bell pepper, avocado truffle soy and microgreens.
That’s not all.
They also are serving more traditional sushi like California rolls, plus soups, salads, and share plates.
“We are starting with things we are very confident we can do now with the produce and present relatively well in containers,” says Trenor. “So much of what we do is about visual presentation and when you put things into a box, you lose so much.”
There’s more to come as Nevada relaxes its restrictions and begins to open back up.
“We have dishes in our back pocket that we’re not busting out yet,” he says. “As we get more comfortable with this … we will be adding more to the menu.”
Chikyū is open for pick-up only beginning on Friday, May 8. Menu is available online.
1740 E. Serene Ave., 89123, 725-777-3787, Tues. – Sun.: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Diana Edelman is the founder of Vegans, Baby and has emerged as the face of plant-based dining in Las Vegas and the leading plant-based restaurant consultant in the city. She spent a decade in the travel blogging world before switching gears to work in elephant rescue in Thailand. Diana travels the world to meet chefs and try vegan food, as well as speak at events focusing on travel, tourism, veganism and entrepreneurship. She’s a partner with the prestigious James Beard Foundation and curates their Vegas Vegan Dinners at the James Beard House. Diana is also a partner with Life is Beautiful, curating the all-vegan Farm Stand.