October 17, 2011 | 8:52am
Here's something Palm Beach County hasn't seen in awhile: a well-executed tapas restaurant.
Whether you call it pinchos, chopitos, or tapas -- derived from the Latin word tapar, meaning "to cover" -- doesn't much matter.
All you really need to know is that Cha Cha's
certainly has all its bases covered
where the Latin-style, small-plate theme is concerned.
This week, Cha Cha's will open its doors for limited bar and dinner service before celebrating its grand opening, set to take place in early November.
I -- for one -- am excited. Maybe that's because it's slightly reminiscent of one of my favorite tapas restaurants from home, the popular and successful Barcelona
chain located in Fairfield County, Connecticut. If Cha Cha's is anything like the Mediterranean-heavy, multilocation concept from which its owners have gleaned a hint of inspiration, this Latin cantina and tequila bar is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Situated in the corner of the second floor of the Spanish-chic 150 Worth Building, it's the perfect setting for the old-world, artisanal charm you'd expect from a true Latin kitchen and cantina. Rustic wooden tables and hand-woven tapestry-covered chairs pair perfectly with art-deco lighting hanging from high tray ceilings, accented with bright pops of colorful, poster-style paintings.
As for fare, Cha Cha's is looking like the kind of spot that, whether through category or authenticity, will appeal to a wide variety of tastes with its mix of meat, fish, and vegetable tapas -- selections prepared by executive chef Nick Fuller and priced reasonably at $3 to $12.
Look for a twist on classic ceviche with the Hamachi Crudo, drenched in a marinade of lemon soy vinaigrette, then laced with pickled melon and popped amaranth (a malty-sweet grain that boasts a multitude of health benefits), an exotically sweet departure from the usual.
On the other hand, the menu runs counter to the tapas concept, a portion of its offering leaning toward expansion of portion size rather than downsizing to the point where four or five can be satiated by, say, the Paella Platter, made from an authentic family recipe that includes various fish, squid, sausage, and mussels flavored with saffron, garlic, and tomatoes ($35 to $50).
Slightly less elaborate yet infinitely appealing are the $4 tacos, each slathered and paired with sauces and slaws, then wrapped in piping-hot housemade tortillas, a favorite and must-have for co-owner Kent Thurston -- homage to his days spent sampling some of Southern California's best.
"You just can't get that kind of [taco] here [in South Florida], so I wanted to do my best to re-create it," said Thurston, who has even hired a tortilla chef -- someone to churn out fresh flour, corn, and whole-wheat tortillas from scratch daily.
Try Baja Fish Tacos that come beer-battered or grilled with cilantro and cumin-infused sour cream and topped with a cilantro-slaw. But Short Rib, Spanish Chorizo, Carnitas, Shrimp al Pastor, and Portebello Verde sound equally alluring.
The bar is another standout feature, with more than 40 types of rums and tequilas meant to be mixed with seasonal fruits and herbs perfect for pairing with various plates. When wine is the beverage of choice, guests have more than 100 vintages from Chile, Argentina, and Spain to choose from, and a $5 drink and tapas menu will offer fresh homemade sangria and margaritas alongside house specialties like hummus, salsas, empanadas, and house-cured olives with Spanish cheeses and fine meats.
Yep, looks like it's time to cha-cha over to Palm Beach...
Like Bradley's, Cucina, and Nick and Johnnie's, Cha Cha's will employ the use of the same old-school cash registers.
Cha Cha's,150 Worth Ave.,Palm Beach 33480. Call 561-833-8800, or visitchachaspalmbeach.com.
To be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
(4 p.m. to midnight through October)
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