Modern Mexican Cuisine – Last Visit: June 2021
Ever since LA Cha Cha Chá opened in the Arts District of Los Angeles nearly four months ago, it has been the hottest ticket in town. Reservations are booked weeks in advance, but recently we scored a reservation at the restaurant, which is an offshoot from its original Mexico City eatery, Terraza Cha Cha Chá. It also boasts one of the best rooftop patios in town.The Arts District was swarming with people on seemingly always crowded 3rd Street on the hot Sunday evening we were there. We parked across the street (valet $12 … street parking in the area is very difficult). We found the unobtrusive, recessed door (photo courtesy of our friend Garrett, who had visited a few weeks earlier) with a small sign, and the four of us headed up the stairs to the patio.
The sprawling and relaxing rooftop patio, replete with dozens of plants, was, indeed, a sensational spot. The only problem is that we had 6:15 reservations, and the temperature was still hovering in the low 90s, so no matter how hard the staff attempted to position the umbrellas near us, the sun continued to beam down on our table. No problem, that’s why they invented cocktails and water! Lots of water.
Susan and Tracy ordered the Blackberry-Hibiscus Swizzle; Absolut Elyx vodka, Grand Marnier, blackberry, hibiscus and lemon, which was as refreshing as it was colorful. Paul and I started with a Red Pepper-Mezcal Negroni; mezcal, bell pepper carpano, Campari and mole, and followed that up with an Oaxacan Zombie; mezcal, aged and overproof tequila, falernum, grenadine, mint, with our meal. If a cocktail should ever earn a “Wow,” it’s the Red Pepper-Mezcal Negroni (to the left of the Swizzle).
We also ordered some Guacamole y Salsas; avocado, shallot, jalapeño, salsa trio, corn chips with a side of chapulines. What are chapulines, you ask? (as did we!) Well, we were told by our server that chapulines are deep-fried crickets. However, after looking the word up, it seems that chapulines are actually grasshoppers. No matter. The crunchy little critters, whatever they were, added to the guacamole, which was good, but for the price we thought the portion of guacamole should have been larger.
We enjoyed our cocktails and guacamole with insects, all the while people watching the way-younger-than-us-crowd as the food came out to their tables. As is usually the case at Arts District restaurants, we brought the age demographic up much higher. We’re “old hipsters,” I guess.
After perusing the menu as we craned our necks to see the dishes served around us, Susan and Paul started with the Terraza Tostada; tuna, crispy cilantro and chile morita aioli, which earned a “Wow” from each of them for the fresh tuna and creamy aioli.
I also started with a “Wow” dish, a Chorizo Taco; filled with chorizo, salsa verde, cilantro and potato chips. It had just the right amount of heat, and all three ingredients made for one of the tastiest tacos I’ve had in quite some time.
We each also ordered an asada taco; beef chuck roll, cilantro, shallot and salsa roja. It, too, was delicious. The tacos and tostadas are on the small size and would be tough to share. Order your own!
Tracy had the only just “ok” dish of the evening which was the Aguachile de Callo;scallop, cucumber, serrano. She felt there was too much liquid and would have been better served as a tostada.For our main course, we decided to share the Steak Pa’Taquear; 12 oz. New York Strip steak, charred tomato, spring onion, nopal and red wine salsa. This also came with a side of warm, home made tortillas, so you can build your own taco if you choose. The steak was very good and perfectly seasoned, although a little on the medium side of medium-rare, which we had ordered.
There were only two dessert options on the menu on this evening, so, of course, we had to order both! The Meringue with Grapefruit was good to the last bite of crunchy meringue, while the Flan de Zanahoria, a carrot flan (yes, your read that correctly) was so delicious and creamy it also garnered a “Wow.” Next time we are ordering two flans.
LA Cha Cha Chá prices are a little higher than your usual Mexican restaurant, but “así es la vida” (such is life). There’s also a 4% “Health and Wellness” service charge added to your bill. I’ve grown accustomed to charges like that on the bill, but I still wish they’d just add 4% to the price of the dishes.
When Garrett visited, he took a few enticing drink and food photos which he shared. I’d love to try the carnitas; pork shoulder confit, braised beans and Pico de Gallo. Looks like his steak was perfectly cooked medium-rare.
Garret’s drink below is, I believe, a Cantarito; tequila blanco, grapefruit, lime, bitters, soda and rimmed with Tajin.
LA Cha Cha Chá is located on a happening part of 3rd Street, near Wurstkuche, Yunomi Handroll, Manuela (the recipient of the 2017 Mai Mai Tai Tom Best Restaurant Of The Year), and virtually across the street from a scrumptious handmade ice cream place, Salt & Straw.
I would definitely put LA Cha Cha Chå on a list of restaurants to visit again, although I’d make the reservation later in the evening, just in case it turns out to be as hot as the evening we visited.
Reservations (well in advance) are highly recommended, although if you arrive later, you might be able to score a table or at least a seat at the bar. The outdoor patio is a great addition to the ever burgeoning restaurant scene in this part of L.A., and don’t forget to try the Red Pepper-Mezcal Negroni.
Mai Tai Tom Rating – 4.6 mai tais (out of 5)
LA Cha Cha Chá
812 East 3rd. Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tuesday – Saturday 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Parking: Valet Across the Street ($12 maximum)
Street Parking: Metered (and hard to come by)