Confused by the Cha Cha Cha

By MARIAM HOSSEINI
|  Friday, Aug 6, 2010  |  Updated 12:30 PM PDT
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Confused by the Cha Cha Cha

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I’m not sure what kind of restaurant Cha Cha Cha is – in fact, I’m not sure anyone is. One part Caribbean, one part tapas, and one part Cuban, my favorite Cha Cha Cha outpost in San Francisco is the one in the Haight. As one of my favorite haunts from my college days, the place evokes a sense of nostalgia for me.

It had been years since I’d visited until recently, when I dined with a friend to celebrate his return from three years spent living in Egypt.

Cha Cha Cha’s menu has changed since then, and while the sangria still flows freely, their arroz con pollo wasn’t on the menu the day we dropped by for lunch. My dining companion and I decided to split a few dishes instead. We started with the warm spinach salad:

Rich and creamy, and tossed with flecks of crispy bacon, this salad could have been a meal on its own. The dressing was savory and delicious, albeit too heavy. The leafy greens helped balance things out.

Next came our fried platanos maduros.

I love sweet plantains, and these were prepared wonderfully: thick and tender, with a slightly crispy, sugary exterior. The beans were good too, but next to the plantains were almost an afterthought.

Our main dish arrived next; the Jamaican jerk chicken.

The jerk chicken was good, but it didn’t blow me away. I expected more flavor and more spice, but the meat very tender and literally falling off the bone.

For me, Cha Cha Cha has always been about the ambiance. The food is good (a few are great), the service is nice, but it’s the fun atmosphere that really seals the deal. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve always dined there with good company. After all, isn’t half the fun of dining out spending time with those you enjoy?

Mariam Hosseini is a Bay Area native who has been writing about food and travel for six years.  She blogs regularly at yogurtsoda.com.

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