Cha-Cha-Cha in the Haight has always been a favourite of mine. It’s loud, both in sound and decor — and it serves up some of the best fingerfood in the city — Caribbean-style tapas. As you can see from the picture above, these are my friends Looby and Brian having a marvelous good time. As usual, I am late in posting — the last time I was at CCC was on the MLK Day Holiday, nearly a month ago.
CCC has marvelous good sangria, but as I had consumed a not-insignificant amount of alcohol at Destino and the Madrone Lounge the night before, I think my body was somehow subconsciously rebelling against the intake of more. I couldn’t handle more than a glassful (perhaps it was also the time of day — I am definitely not used to drinking at noon) despite its beautiful ruby red tastiness…
But perhaps the crowning dish, imho, is the calamari; indeed, I can devour most of an order of this by myself, if left to my own devices. It comes in a generous portion, however, definitely enough for 3 or 4. It’s served with a dollop of rich, lemon garlic aioli and lemon or lime wedges on the side.
I am not a fan of plantains (indeed, I just overcame a huge distaste for bananas a few years ago); but Nora is, and I can enjoy the fried platanos maduros at CCC, though not in the way I can consume a whole order of calamari. The plantains here are served with black beans drizzled with sour cream — it seems like a very odd combination, but the plantains actually taste better (at least to me) eaten with a dollop of those beans and cream. Across the way from us sat another couple who (it seemed to me,) didn’t quite understand the concept of ordering multiple dishes to share. He had a sandwich with some salad and She was making her way through one whole order of plantains. But then again perhaps they did understand and she just wanted those plantains in the way I desired my own platter of golden fried squid… at the time it just didn’t make sense to me and I couldn’t fathom the concept of consuming that one dish.
Next to the plantains are the potatoes, which are usually exceptionally wonderful, golden and crisply perfect on the outside, fluffy-creamy hot on the inside, but today were just a tad… soggy. They’re accompanied by a good chile aioli.
Another dish we enjoyed was the mussels, which comes in such a light, good-smelling saffron broth with tomatoes, garlic and onions that you can either slurp away at it like soup or sop it up with the slices of baguette provided in good, generous quantities.
And last, but not least came the warm Spinach salad (so the greens are slightly wilted), tossed with their special, tangy dressing and sprinkled throughout with bacon, shallots and mushrooms. Other dishes I enjoy but didn’t order on this round: the chicken paillard — grilled strips of chicken breast in a creamy dijon sauce, the sauteed mushrooms with sherry, garlic, and olive oil; and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken: baked with Scotch Bonnet peppers, raisins, garlic and tomatoes, a really spicy dish but so delicous and served atop fragrant white rice.
We were at CCC for brunch that day and before that, for an early 5ish dinner. Otherwise, I do not attempt to get there during regular dinner hours unless I’ve got 45 minutes or an hour to spare for waiting. They don’t take reservations at the Haight St. location (Mission accepts them for parties of 8 or more, but with a 2-hour stay max) unfortunately… At least Amoeba Records is right next door, if you’ve got friends who don’t mind waiting for you, or at least waiting in shifts.
Haight: 1801 Haight at Stanyan
Mission: 2327 Mission at 19th
Parking is difficult at both locations and on the weekends, be prepared for long waits.