Cha Cha, anyone? Worth Avenue restaurant does Latin, with a kick

The latest buzz in Palm Beach is Cha Cha’s Latin Fresh Kitchen and Tequila Bar. It’s a distinctive yet refreshing addition to the infamous Worth Avenue scene. The restaurant belongs to Palm Beach’s Coniglio family, whose portfolio also includes E.R. Bradley’s Salon, Cucina Dell’Arte, and Nick and Johnnie’s.

Cha Cha’s design is a modern twist on Latin meets Palm Beach. Located on the second floor of the ultra-chic Palm Beach 150 Worth Building, the decor mixes old Spanish rustic wooden charm with lots of eclectic touches, such as art-deco light fixtures, whimsical artwork and cozy lounge areas featuring leather and red crushed velvet.

The restaurant has a number of separate dining areas with the bar as the centerpiece, stocking over 40 types of rums and tequilas. Behind the custom-made bar is a wall of old post office boxes that contain secret prizes. Ask the hostess for a key to a box for a chance to win concert and sporting event tickets, free drinks and/or dinner vouchers for Cha Cha’s or one of the other family restaurants.

Cha Cha’s menu is diverse and includes dishes from Spain, South America, Latin Caribbean and Mexico, such as tapas (small plate) dishes ($3-$12), ensaladas ($9-$12), Spanish cheeses and cured meats ($6 for one, $17 for three) and paella ($35 for three people or $50 for six).

There is also a selection of homemade tortilla tacos ($4-$5) with featured ingredients such as beer-battered Baja fish, portabella mushrooms, chorizo, short rib and chicken. The entrees include salmon, skirt steak, parillade (Argentine grilled mix of sausage, steak, chicken and pork) and short rib risotto ($19-$28).

On a recent Saturday night, our group started with a mix of tapas and some homemade red sangria by the pitcher ($30). The beef empanadas were amazing – moist, slightly sweet with a lovely finish of tomatoes and peas. The Caribbean cerviche, which featured fresh snapper in tomato water with bell peppers and lime, was a huge hit. The beef short rib quesadilla was smoky, tender and delicious. We were also pleased with the beef Carpaccio – served paper-thin on a frozen plate over arugula and topped with lovely sherry vinaigrette and reggiano parmigiana. One of the night’s favorites was the grilled corn topped off with a sprinkle of Cotixa cheese, cumin and garlic.

We also ordered Cha Cha’s signature Spanish-style paella, which was highly recommended by the manager and our waiter. It was very tasty with plenty of fish, shrimp, sausage, chicken and mussels, but just a bit too oily and no sign (taste or smell) of saffron, as described on the menu.

In general, the service was good, and our waiter, Michael, was exceptional.

Cha Cha’s has an outdoor dining area in the open-air plaza with a view of some of the world’s most prestigious purveyors. It’s open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and is located at 150 Worth Ave. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with $5 cocktail specials and $3 appetizers. Call 561-833-8800 for more information.

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