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Santa Monica

Santa Monica: Cha Cha Chicken

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The Skinny:  Cha Cha Chicken is a restaurant that was featured on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate…” for it’s Coconut Fried Chicken.  I didn’t know that at the time I was there and just ordered the Jerk Combo.  The plate comes with a Jerk Chicken Enchilada, Jerk Chicken Tostada, some Fried Plantains, and Dirty Rice with Red Beans.  I also got a cup of Agua de Watermelon and sat in the outdoor area, which is nice on a warm sunny day by the beach.

The Good:  Everything tasted fine and the ingredients all seemed fresh to order.   The Jerk part of the Chicken components had a sweetness that reminded me of Pineapples.  I did especially like the Dirty Rice for some reason and the cold Watermelon Water was refreshing and not overly sweet.

The Bad:  When I think of Jerk something, I think of spicy food that kicks your butt.  So I was expecting the Cha Cha Jerk sauce to have some heat, but the stuff was hardly mild.  I do think they use pineapple in the sauce and while it tasted fine, it was a little bit too sweet for me.  I just wanted a little more savory and some heat to balance things out.

Would you come back again?  Yup!  They do have a large menu and I want to try their other stuff.

More Info: Cha Cha Chicken – 1906 Ocean Avenue – Santa Monica, CA

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DineLA presents: Jiraffe

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The Skinny: Located in Santa Monica right by the 3rd St. Promenade and Wokcano, the unassuming (and a tad hard to find restaurant) is run by head chef LA’s own Raphael Lunetta. I had their DineLA Menu during Restaurant Week.

The High: Maine Jumbo Sea Scallop with Fergola Sarda, Farmer’s Market Sunchokes, Chanterelles, Rocco Parmesan Cheese, Pinot Noir Sauce. I was a bit scared at first because I’ve had one too many overcooked scallops in the past, but these scallops were on point. There’s nothing better than starting off a meal with light, savory and perfectly cooked scallops. The sauce was packed with flavor and a bit of a kick that complemented the variety of other additions to the appetizer like the sunchokes and chanterelles very well. It was a whole lot of fun in your mouth as well with the different texture combinations of the scallops, sunchokes, chanterelles, and fergola sarda.

Filet of Beef with Roasted Salsify and White Asparagus Puree, Red Flame Grapes, Salad of Julienne Celery Root with Creme Fraiche-Whole Grain Mustard, Madiera-Beef Jus. I personally liked this over the John Dory. This was my boyfriend’s dish, but we ended up switching midway into dinner. I loved the grapes with this dish. It blended perfectly with the madiera and really added a sweetness to the beef. Everything about this dish was just very delicate and simple, but still deep in flavor. You can tell Lunetta really puts a lot of love and time into his sauces.

The desserts. Carmelized Banana Cream Pie and Chocolate Halsey with Caramel Mousse. I love banana cream pie and Jiraffe did an EXCELLENT job with theirs. It wasn’t too much banana where I’d feel like Donkey Kong, but it wasn’t too much cream where I’d feel like I’m eating Beard Papa’s. A perfect combination of both AND the crust was flaky – exquisite. The Chocolate Halsey was also delicious especially if you’re a dark chocolate fan. The mousse was great and it had a good balance of both chocolate and caramel.

The Low: Roulade of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Crispy Potato Wrapped Big Eye Ahi Tuna with Confit of Baby Leeks, Plum Wine-Szechuan Pepper Sauce – For an appetizer with a name as long as the Mississippi River, I expected a lot more (and was disappointed). I LOVE foie gras and this dish just really did not deliver. First off, I couldn’t taste the foie gras at all because it was surrounded by way too much warm raw tuna. There is nothing worse than getting the temp off with raw fish. The only saving grace for this was again, the sauce, but I didn’t appreciate the peppers as much because I still remember how overpowering it was 3 weeks later. If I wanted a mediocre tuna roll with a sprinkle of foie gras, I could’ve went to Wokcano next door.

Would you come back again? 50/50. I don’t think I’d come back for the DineLA menu. It really didn’t live up to the hype. I’ve heard it compared to Melisse before, but the food wasn’t really to die for. I’d recommend it to out of towners who are looking for good restaurants in the area. And, I’d definitely suggest it to anyone who’d be interested in buying me dinner, but not sure if I’d pay for this myself.

More Info:  JIRAFFE Restaurant | 502 Santa Monica Boulevard |Santa Monica, CA 90401-2410 | (310) 917-6671 | Credit Card Friendly | Average Entree Costs $25

– Barbarella