ChaChaCha – Not the Dance, the Restaurant! Havana, Cuba

July 4, 2017

in Editor's Bite,Food for Thought,International

Post image for ChaChaCha – Not the Dance, the Restaurant! Havana, Cuba

Avenue de las Misiones (aka Avenida Belgica)
Habana Vieja

Reviewed and Photgraphed by: Senior Staff Writer Les Noteworthy

Food: Service: Old Havana is home to many spectacular buildings, and also many amazing museums. One such museum is the “GranMa Museum”, a block sized collection of all things revolutionary, including the original boat on which Castro returned to Cuba pre-revolution, and many other articles of war. It is adjacent to the majestic Museum of the Revolution, Dictator Fulgencio Batista’s former residence, and now serves as a museum to the revolution which forced him from power.

ChaChaCha at Night

Directly across the wide Avienda Belgica from these museums on the edge of Old Havana, sits a charming little eatery which was only recently opened as a restaurant and bar, known reflectively as “ChaChaChá!” after the famous Cuban dance craze of the early 50′s.

During their recent renovation, they included a loft area, nearly doubling the available seating! Their well-stocked bar and kitchen are located on the ground floor, with about 24 seats on the main level and perhaps another 20 on the loft deck.

ChaChacha View From Inside Loft

My guests and I entered to a nearly full house, and were quickly ushered to a high-top adjacent to the front window set for three. Luckily we had thought to make reservations in advance. The table was set in an open fashion, employing old record albums as charger plates, with the napkin draped just off the edge of the table. It offered a cool, retro sort of setting which certainly reflected the feel of the room. The interior decor was very urban themed; rough brick walls with clever pipe and light bulb sculptures, with a pair of street light fixtures reaching out into the open space above the main dining area. The atmosphere was loud and lively, offering a great vibe! There were 2 groups of 8 responsible for a fair share of the volume, yet there was lots of the traditional clinking and clattering that busy, upbeat restaurants are known for. Music to my ears!!

We were soon greeted by a bi-lingual server who took our beverage orders. No offer of the daily special was volunteered, so we opted to make decisions from their limited, but intriguing menu.

ChaChaCha Fish Donuts

The fare was a combination of Cuban, Spanish, Italian and other Global influences, listing menu items in Spanish, with rough English translations. The menu offered items like Croquetas, Jamon de Serrano, “Fish Doughnut covered with Banana”, or Octopus Carpaccio, as well as a variety of salads and other popular starters. It also offered an array of pastas and risottos which could be enjoyed as starters or entrée portions, as well as another page of popular entrée options.

We opted for the Beef Carpaccio, with capers, arugula, truffle oil and parmesan, Croquettes of the Day because of the intriguing nature of the menu description, and the “Fish Doughnut covered with Banana!”

ChaChaCha Croquettes

Our bottled waters and a beautiful Verdejo from Spain arrived, and was a perfect selection to accompany our choices. Crisp and clean, yet offering a subtle richness on the palate.

Two of our starters soon followed.  The Fish Doughnut was more accurately 5 fish beignets, featuring flakey fish inside, and banana chips on the crispy exterior. This was served with a ramekin of sweet garlic chili sauce, which greatly enhanced the “doughnut”. They were tasty enough, but not anywhere as interesting as the menu description. The “croquetas” were tasty, but rather non-descript, and a bit disappointing. The filling was slightly undercooked creamy corn meal, rolled into small balls, breaded, then deep fried, tasting rather like under seasoned polenta balls. None the less, we managed to consume every last

ChaChaCha Beef Carpaccio

morsel on each plate.

The third selection was Beef Carpaccio. It was served as a middle course, and was the clear winner! It featured over a dozen paper thin circlets’ of Tenderloin, dressed with just a few Arugula leaves, capers, copious truffle oil and grated Parmesan. The slices literally melted in your mouth! This dish stands amongst the finest Beef Carpaccio that I have enjoyed anywhere in the world.

Our plates were silently cleared, utensils replaced and wine glasses refilled. Entrees did take a while, but conversation and people watching made the time pass quickly.

When our entrees arrived, all were artfully plated! One of my guests had selected Steak Tips “ChaChaChá” which were marinated beef cubes, served on a sizzling Fajita plate, with potato wedges and Gaufrettes. Another of my guests selected the Funghi (mushroom) Risotto. I had opted for the Cerdo a Baja Presión, loosely translated to “pork in low pressure”, although I am still uncertain as to what low pressure was intended to mean. This was quite nice, offering 2

ChaChaCha Steak Tips

large pieces of braised pork shoulder, with a lovely flavored cream sauce, potato wedges and some lightly sautéed vegetable strips. The texture of the pork was exquisite and tender, effortlessly cut with a fork. The sauce was somewhat reminiscent of a Chicken Marsala flavor and was rich, well-seasoned and flavorful.

We sampled each other’s fare and we agreed that all were delicious, ample portions and filling. The steak tips were flavorful with just a hint of spiciness, and were kept hot on the sizzling fajita plate. The Risotto was also delicious, featuring very strong porcini mushroom flavors, topped with a good amount of pungent Parmesan, and retained the perfect hint of al dente in the rice grains! The pork was deemed the winner by all!

Plates were cleared, desserts and coffees were offered, but declined. The bill for the evening’s fare was presented and truly reasonable for the volume of food, bottles of water and a bottle of wine. The menu was interesting, fairly well composed, although pretty roughly translated into English. This actually added a bit of subtle humor to our experience!

As a side note, I have found that many paladars (independent restaurants) offer less standardized pricing structures

ChaChaCha Inside...always rocking!!

than larger government run or corporate group restaurants. This can leave menus with entrees for 6-9 CUC and others at 20-25 CUC, creating a wide disparity in their pricing structure. Many restaurants have starters priced the same as entrees, so for foreign visitors it can be confusing and somewhat of a surprise.

Our experience at “ChaChaChá” was a good one! The vibe was upbeat and lively, the food was generally quite tasty, portions were ample and the service was timely and efficient! As always, I ask myself, “would I return?” The answer is certainly, yes!

“Would I recommend this to a friend?” Again, the answer is yes!

I do recommend making reservations as the place is small and always busy.

Walk-ins are taken upon availability, which doesn’t happen often. So, when you find yourself in Old Havana looking for a good restaurant with a fun vibe, give this spot a thought. Make sure you tell them at ChaChaChá Les Noteworthy from sent you!

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