Jerk chicken enchiladas with fried plantains, rice, and beans
Normally I don't like chicken enchiladas (the chicken takes up space where there could be cheese, after all) but I like enchiladas, and wanted to try some kind of jerk chicken without actually having to eat a plate of chicken. Jerk chicken enchiladas were the obvious choice.
My vegetarian friend got the jerk veggie burrito, but wasn't too excited about it. I, however, was quite excited about my enchiladas. They were on the small side, but with the rice, beans, and plantains, I still had leftovers. The nice thing about the smaller portion than you get at Mexican restaurants was that I didn't feel heavy and stuffed. The jerk flavor seems to largely be found in the enchilada sauce, which is a tasty, sweet, and slightly tangy sauce. The accompanying rice and beans didn't taste like much, and for some reason were cooked together (maybe it's a Carribean thing). The fried plantains are good, as all fried plantains are, but I wish they would have given me more than two small pieces--it's not the raw ingredients or the preparation are pricey, after all.
I had a canteloupe agua fresca to drink--yum! It was much sweeter and much less watery than the aguas frescas I am accustomed to, which are more like fruit-flavored water. This was more like a full-blown fruit juice. I loved the flavor and the tiny bits of canteloupe letting me know that there was actual fruit in my drink, but I actually would have liked it to be a little less sweet and more watery, since I don't care for fruit juice. But still--canteloupe!!! It's one of my favorite flavors (especially for gelato), and you hardly ever see it. All drinks are served in disposable plastic cups--you know, the kind you used to drink out of in college. If you want to drink the free water, you only get a tiny cup. Panera does that too, and I abhor the practice.
Cha Cha Chicken is one of the only restaurants that has patio seating only
Cha Cha's setup is a little confusing if you're a first-timer. When you walk in, head to your right to order at the counter. If you don't see a menu, look around on the counter for some laminated, brightly colored pages. They'll bring your food to your table. The tables are all outside and pretty effectively separated from the noise of Ocean Avenue by brightly colored oil drums with large plants growing out of them. Umbrellas, more plants, and brightly colored decor create a festive, tropical atmosphere. My only complaint was that the umbrella didn't block out the sun very well, so I had to shade my eyes with my hand the whole time, even though I was wearing sunglasses.
They have a tiny lot (4 spaces or so) but at this time of year, 2 hour parking meters on Ocean are plentiful. In tourist season though, you might have a hard time parking here.
Overall, the food was good and cheap, and I would go back. I'm not sure I have any better grasp on what Carribean food is than I did before I went, though. Surely it's about more than jerk chicken? Maybe I should try that Royal Carribean place on Broadway. Has anyone been?
Total cost: $10 (and I had a small box of leftovers, but I wasn't very hungry)
By the way, if any of you are canteloupe fans like me, you can get a canteloupe drink at Lollicup and sometimes at Tapioca Express. I haven't tried either yet, but I believe the one at Tapioca Express uses fresh canteloupe. Also, Rose Market sells a canteloupe and something (rosewater?) ice cream, but the other flavor takes away from the canteloupe flavor.
Cha Cha Chicken
1906 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90405