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New England Regional | Tastes and Tables

Cuchi Cuchi

A treat, in small portions

March-April 2007

Cuchi Cuchi’s shtick is entertaining, the décor a retro salute to “belle epoch” and early Hollywood, the waitresses’ feathers straight from grandmother’s attic. Go to the establishment’s evocative website, www.cuchicuchi.cc, and click on “Photos” for a digital sampling of the corporeal treats in store. The main reward is the food.

If you want a 24-ounce slab of porterhouse with he-man accompaniments placed before you, stay away. If a little bit of nuanced beef stroganoff would suit you better, or a taste of grilled skirt steak with chimichurri, come ahead. Cuchi Cuchi is for people who like to order their dinner off the “appetizers” part of a menu.

Courtesy of Cuchi Cuchi
On the bar is a basil strawberry martini, one of 40 perhaps-new-to-you cocktails on offer. “Cuchi-Cuchi,” of course, is the flamboyant entertainer Charo’s signature expression.
 
Courtesy of Cuchi Cuchi
Co-owner Fernanda da Silva, chin in hand, and “Cuchi Cuchi girls” Sara and Ana Maria are decked out in vintage clothes and jewels to recall an era of “luxury, sensuality, beauty, naughtiness, and a bit of excess.” (Harmony Dawn gives Tarot card readings twice weekly, and two decorative mannequins, Lovely and Darling, are dressed in boas and beads appropriate to the season.)
 

The establishment presents food from all around the world, what they call “‘straight up’ little international dishes whose main ingredients stand by themselves, without side dishes.” You might order a couple of plates just for yourself, or your party might share, with a clashing of forks mid table. The place is noisy enough so that you may give your full attention to the food. Be sure to get a bit of the “Caspian Heaven” on your plate (roast fingerling potatoes, crispy oysters, crème fraîche, salmon roe, and champagne sauce) and to not allow the person seated opposite you to polish off the seafood-filled avocado from Guatemala or the plate of “Swallowed Clouds”— shrimp wontons—without at least showing some sign of embarrassment. Your bustling waitperson will bring your dishes to your table in the order, and at the pace, you specify, if you have ideas about that—and try to form some. If too many, too different things arrive at once, a confusing collision of flavors may ensue. And of course if you are having Panamanian scallop ceviche (in tomato, onion, jalapeño, lime, mango, and banana salsa), you presumably would wish to have it before the baby back ribs with apple fritters.

Cuchi Cuchi
795 Main Street
Cambridge
617-864-2929
Open for dinner Monday-Saturday, 5:30-11 a.m., drinks until 12:30 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Reservations recommended. Valet parking.

 It may not be believable or helpful to assert that everything here is delicious, delightful, and de-lovely, but a chorus of approval rises from around the table. (Okay, the duck à l’orange crêpes are perhaps too à l’orange.) Of course, you may fundamentally like fried artichoke hearts filled with Gorgonzola, pistachios, and basil less well than blinis, or feel indifferent to Mexican deep-fried tomatoes. And you might not even consider letting chicken liver pâté pass the barrier of your teeth, even though Cuchi Cuchi’s chicken liver pâté is the very best one has ever had.

The menu offers more than 30 food items, plus dessert. One wishes to sample almost all of them—the “Cuban Cigar,” for instance (beef short ribs in empanada dough).

 You can eat and drink more than you need, and tip generously, and come away $50 lighter per head, which, as restaurant experiences go, you may think a small price for a large pleasure.

~C.R.