Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Dine and Dish 6 - Amazing Graze


When fantasti-hostess Sarah suggested Tapas for this edition of dine and dish, I thought I should email her sassy self and make sure we wouldn’t be hitting the same spots. Then I remembered the girl never travels more than a mile from her Westside digs and I got over it. (Why yes Sarah! That was me mocking you! Drive east young woman! Drive EAST! You can do it! Don’t be afraid!)

The options for tapas here in LA are seemingly endless. With old stand bys like Cobras and Matadors, tequila happy hot spots like Malo (which I frequent with some frequency) and new trendy establishments like Eat, it was a hard choice…sort of.

(Now this is the part of the story when I bring in Miss Sarah’s other influence in my life. Dang I adore that girl!)

I have a dear, dear friend, who I refer to as the Ombudsman. He is a peach of a man (and I will add that he is NOT nice or cute, but he is all kinds of dangerous and sexy as hell) and he and I go out to eat on a pretty regular basis (his GF resides 500 miles north. I like that.). Trouble is, when on the spot and challenged with “where do you want to eat” one of six places always end up being presented. While they are all fantastic, they are all DONE. We have eaten at these spots so many dang times, we don’t even look at the menus any more. Yawn.

So taking a cue from Delicious Sara, we wrote a list of places we want to try/revisit. 3 restaurants in 5 neighborhoods. Each. It was a daunting task, but fun.

It was from that list that we ended up at the proud-to-be-family-owned Cha Cha Cha in Silverlake. (The original is in West Hollywood) A hot spot for California Caribbean tapas and more. It was number three on my list and five on his (what can I say, great minds, thinking alike...or something) And just to give you and idea, the last time I ate there was Sassy-Stand-Up’s 24th birthday, and I’m pretty sure, the lass is pushing 29 these days.

While not a typically tapas kinda spot there is a whole tapas section on the menu brimming with tasty delights to choose from …so lets get to the review shall we!

First off, Cha Cha Cha is in an uber-hipster neighborhood. Shabby, gentrifying quirkiness. Its not dangerous at all, but it could use a good once over with a sand-blaster for sure. (The neighborhood, not the restaurant)

The interior is all kinds of fun. Funky Caribbean catholic-voodoo décor. Lots of tropical colors and chile pepper lights. The lighting is low and there is a great heat to it all.

Once seated, I had a glass of their famous red wine sangria, and the Ombudsman opted for a Red Stripe beer. He likes his beer, I love me their sangria.

From the menu, we choose the Roasted Garlic Pizza - 7.50 (Roasted garlic, fresh oregano, mozzarella and goat cheese)
Ceviche Cocktail - 8.00 (Fresh baby scallops and snapper marinated overnight in citrus juices with Serrano peppers, cilantro, garden vegetables, mango and papaya)
Spicy Corn Chowder - 4.50, Tamales de Oro - 7.50, Champinones, Sautéed mushrooms marinated in sherry, garlic and parsley - $4.95 Tortilla Soup - $4.95 and a side order of Caribbean Fries

I admit, the whole slew of food was a bit carb-heavy, but heavens was it ever good.

The mushrooms were by far my favorite. Just a big bowl of dark brown liquid with (cold) steeped shrooms hidden beneath. They were strong and garlicky and just right. The marinade was perfect with the classic Cuban style white bread rolls that are endlessly refilled to a waiting basket.

The pizza, with about six smallish slices, was insanely good. Dense chewy crust, creamy white gobs of tangy goat cheese, and whole cloves of braised garlic over a spicy red pepper sauce. It was the only thing we brought home, and the smell that filled the car was divine…

The corn chowder was thickish and creamy, it had lots of corn and was spicy as hell with so many minced jalapeños in there. It was advertised as such, so I could hardly complain, but I didn’t eat much of it for fear my tongue would blister.

Inside a festive coconut was a massive serving of seviche, which we both adored. Light and refreshing, the seafood was a good blend of snapper, salmon, scallops and shrimp. There was also a lot of mango and other fruit, chiles and onions. Lucky thing neither of had kissing planned for the night, because between this and the pizza, it would have been quite the turn off.

The tamales were a bit of overkill (I will state that again when I mention the fries) but lordy were they good. Thick cigars of light corn that was exceptionally well seasoned, they are served with glistening black beans, sparkling salmon roe and a light sour cream to top it all off. I wanted to devour them all.

I just couldn’t resist the thick cut spicy fries they serve, so those were on our menu too, but sadly, I could only eat about two since we really had gone a bit mad with the ordering. They were super good though!

Oh, and The Ombudsman had tortilla soup too. He liked it. That’s all I could get from him. Sorry.

So there you go. Cha Cha Cha is an outstanding place to get together with friends after work or later and nibble on some interesting, spicy tapas. I love the festive atmosphere and vibe. Try it, and enjoy!

Will I return? Yes
Food? Tasty!
Prices – Very reasonable
Valet – Yes
Overall vibe – Funky hipster


Review from Zagats: Nothing says “festive” like this “funkadelic” Caribbean duo that keeps revelers on their toes with the “happiest of happy hours” and some of the “best jerk chicken anywhere”; whether you two-step into the Silver Lake original or the West Hollywood branch, the “congenial” staff and “voodoo-esque” decor keep things “sizzling”; sure a few party-poopers “aren’t thrilled” with the food, but “one sangria and you’ll be cha-cha-cha-ing all over the place.”

Snappy Salads a chain based in Dallas, Texas is a ecology-oriented fast food restaurant that features biodegradable utensils and aprons made of hemp. Their menu includes organic produce, hormone-free beef, free-range chicken and fair-trade teas.

Believers say that true Cuban bread cannot be found outside of Tampa or Miami. Cuban bread is best when it is eaten on the same day that it is made, as Cuban bread contains lard. After a day or so, the lard hardens, and the bread gets dry. – What’s Cooking

Rachel- Love your writing. Cha cha cha is now on my list of places to dine when I am in LA. You have a terrific way with words! Kathy
R, I believe the Hillhurst restaurant was the first. That was where stars were to be seen slumming in the early 80's . Went to a wedding they catered recently. The food is still delicious. what are your other recommends? your fans want to know. PK
Thanks, Rachel - I'm adding it to my list of restaurants to try!
Hi there.. Love your blog, buthave had trouble reading it lately. On a technical note, sometimes your Atom feed for your blog fails to load. I just had the same problem on my blog and found the solution. I bet you are writing your entries in Word and pasting them into Blogger. When you do this, Word includes a bunch of HTML stuff that Blogger doesn't know how to handle. For example, enter into the address bar of your browser and you'll see an error about <"o:p"> not bound to a namespace. If you edit your post in HTML view, you'll see a bunch of those tags. Delete all the "o:"'s (leave the <>'s and p's) and the Atom feed will work again.

Sorry if all the technical stuff is beyond you. Just trying to share what I discovered today...
Tapas, ah yes! LOVE LOVE them! Mind you, LA is far from where I am, so Cha Cha Cha, good bye!!
Spanish are the coolest to have invoted tapas! And your post is great!
Ahhh I can hardly read this post. We tried Austins tapas and wine bar in the warehouse district last Saturday and yuck, yuck, yuck. Pricey and fresh was the last thought on my mind.

I miss my Soif Wine Tasting Bar!! Btw if you are ever in Santa Cruz you must try them. They are amazing! And their tapas? $3.50.
Malagas was the name of the place IN Austin... not called Austins. Oops :)
Rachel - Oh I love tapas! I've been to a place called Cha Cha Cha's in San Francisco and it's my favorite tapas there too! Great writing, by the way - you had me ready to make a trip down the coast by the end!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY you lovely chef!
Did we miss your birthday?! Happy happiest of birthdays to you girl!
Haven't seen an update lately - hope things are going ok!
I tagged you for the recipe collection meme!
I hope you haven’t been tagged yet...
Hi Rachel! Just wanted to say "hi!" and I really miss your posts and recipes. I hope everything's OK. Take care...
Thanks for all the great comments everyone!
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