We all eat. Some of us do so at restaurants. Often, we go to a new place and wonder if our first impressions were valid. It seems a good idea to have a thread that discusses our initial impressions of a place – so that others can confirm our impressions, or say “You’re full of crepe” (people, this is a family site).
Which brings me to Cuchi Cuchi, on Main Street in the general Central Square Area, Cambridge, MA, USA, Earth (in-joke, others ignore: D T-T, is your inquiring mind satisfied about location?).
It didn’t get respectful attention on Chowhound, and has (as far as my poor searches go), essentially no mention here. I can understand why – the shtick around it has always put me off, too. But we were to see the gender-exploring play, Cloud 9, at Central Square Theater, and a restaurant that claimed to fool around with that, and some faintly burlesque themes, seemed appropriate. We must after all eat at what we are about to see.
Let me get two things out of the way:
- The burlesque theme at CC is mild, muted, sweet and restrained. One muscular waitperson was in a loose pantsuit, with no shirt. Our waitperson seemed possibly stoned – how else to explain his/her penchant for dropping things – trays, our check, etc. – and to ask with great earnestness, when we asked for ice, what shape we wanted the ice to be. But s/he was, as I said, earnest, sweet, and well-meaning, and, really, in an American life dominated in the last three years by the opposite, I’ll take the sweetness of Cambridge, sickly though it sometimes is, any day.
My wife commented that we were in a Cambridge version of a 1920s burlesque joint from the show Babylon Berlin (if you’ve not seen it, do).
- Before you see BB, see cloud 9.
OK. I know you guys/gals/guys/gals are all about the food and not about gender-benders: It was astonishingly good. I say that with trepidation because there are several reasons why I might be wrong, but everything was astonishingly tasty, and the dishes well-paced.
We ordered vegetable empanadas, fried artichokes, chicken kiev, and “cuban cigars” (short ribs, in a long, cigar like crust).
First, their pacing was flawless: the artichokes came out first, the empanadas next, the chicken kiev after that, and the short-rib cigars last. A perfect tempo.
The artichokes (hearts slathered with blue cheese, then breaded-and-fried), were very good, although I thought the breading a bit heavy. They rested in a puddle of sauce that had cured, wrinkled, black olives and pomegranate seeds in it. The empanadas were quite wonderful – the crust crisp, and the vegetables inside finely chopped and diverse (are we getting the theme here?): cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, … too many to name. The accompany aioli was very pungent, but almost unnecessary, so tasty was this dish.
The chicken kiev, a little overly stuffed with mushrooms to my taste, was served halved, with herby butter pooled at the bottom. Really, what’s the point of chicken kiev if you’re not able to have the excitement of cutting into it and having very hot butter squirt out at you and hit you in a totally unexpected place? (I owe the loss of my left eye, my right nostril, both earlobes, and my left leg – don’t ask – to this dish. OK, OK, I kid.) But it was absolutely delicious, and the exterior all crisp skin. I’d go back tomorrow just for this.
By the time the short rib cigar arrived we were stuffed – we’re small eaters, what can I say? – but we still took enough puffs to extinguish it. The meat was tender, the crust crisp, the two slices of accompanying crisply pan-fried plantain perfect, as was the black-bean, mango salsa. Again, superior fine-chopping skills were at hand with the salsa. Fuchsia Dunlop makes much – correctly – of the importance of correct cutting/chopping in Chinese cuisine. The kitchen at Cuchi Cuchi has in it a very good hand with a knife – or they have a very good supplier of chopped stuff.
It’s possible we hit the place on an on day. We’ll be back soon to test if that was the case. Overall our dinner was on the heavy side – but then we picked dishes where frying was involved. They’ve ceviches, etc., on offer and they’d be worth trying.