Pros: Deliciously creative dishes, warm and funky ambiance.
Cons: Sometimes the wait is loooooong.
Its name alone grabs your attention. Whenever I tell someone unfamiliar with the restaurant that I went to "Cuchi Cuchi" for dinner, he or she inevitably laughs or else looks at me incredulously. The restaurant's name is "Cuchi Cuchi"? Really?
Yes it is, and Cuchi Cuchi is a great new addition to the Boston area. It was opened last summer (2001) by the owners of the wonderful restaurant Dali (one of my favorite places of all time- if you are interested, please read my review...). In some ways, Cuchi Cuchi is similar toDali;
both restaurants have fabulously funky interiors (Dali's is Spanish and Cuchi Cuchi's is dark and whimsical, with stained glass lighting and colorful walls and draperies; both restaurants also feature tapas, which (for the uninitiated) are small dishes, somewhat like appetizers, that are ordered en masse and shared by your group.
Where the two restaurants diverge, however, is in the type of tapas that they serve. While Dali sticks to a fairly traditional Spanish menu, and also offers entrees on their menu, Cuchi Cuchi offers only tapas, and Spanish cuisine is only one of the myriad cuisines that are intertwined and merged in the dishes.
Before I get to the food, let's discuss the details:
Cuchi Cuchi is located near Inman Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts (just outside of Boston). It is on 795 Main Street, next to a Bertucci's. The restaurant does not have a parking lot, so you will have to battle for an on-street parking spot. Good luck. (You can do what I do, and park in a residential on-street spot on one of the blocks behind the restaurant. I've never been ticketed or towed, but you might be, so watch out. Oh, and don't tell the locals I told you this...).
Hours and reservations
Dinner is served nightly from 5:30-11:00, and the bar is open until 12:30.
Cuchi Cuchi only takes reservations Monday through Thursday, and only until 7:00. Their phone number is 617-864-292. I've only been there on weekend nights, and unless I've gotten there really early (like before 6:00), I've had to wait. It's not too bad, though, because the bar area is great and so are the drinks, which I'll get to later.
The restaurant's website advises "Casual elegance (pearls and jeans)." I've seen people dressed in all sorts of ways, and given the funkiness of the place, everyone seems to fit in. So I wouldn't worry too much. There tend to be, however, a fair number of wannabe "trendy" people there. So if that is the kind of person you are (or are influenced by), then keep that in mind when you dress for your visit...
Okay, on to the Food, drinks, and Service!
I have always had exceptionally good service at Cuchi Cuchi. The waiters are friendly, funny, and attentive. They seem like they enjoy working at the restaurant, and want to make sure that you're having fun, too. You can also count on the waiters to recommend the best dishes- they've never been wrong.
Cuchi Cuchi has some fabulous drinks. Skip the beer and wine (although I'm sure their selection is great) and head straight for the cocktails. You won't regret it. At $8 a pop, they're a bit pricy, but after two or three, you won't care anymore, anyway. Many of them are made with freshly-squeezed fruit juices, and all of them are colorful and go down very easily. Try a julep or one of their many martini options- Sour Apple, Watermelon, Blood Orange, Strawberry Basil... The last time I was there I had something called "Getting Layered" that included (perhaps? I can't remember...) various tropical juices, rum, and something else... Whatever was in it, I was hooked.
Now, as I mentioned before, the menu is not split up in the traditional way with appetizers and entrees. The dishes are all about appetizer-sized, and the idea is to order two or three of them per person, and then share with your table. The menu is split into the following categories: Vegetables; Potatoes, Rice, Pasta; Soups; Waterfront; Game and Meat; and Unclassified. The Potatoes, Rice, and Pasta selections change daily. The dishes range in price from $6-$12.
What is like best is that you can taste dishes from so many different cuisines, all at one time. Everything is fresh and colorful ( I know I've used the word "colorful" at least a few times already, but everything about this restaurant is colorful...). Every dish shows beautiful attention to detail with its presentation.
Some of my favorites: The Tuna Carpaccio and Salmon Tartare with Couscous, an interesting fusion of sushi and middle eastern cuisine, is fabulous. I have ordered this dish every time I have gone to Cuchi Cuchi. The fish is exceedingly fresh and tender, and the couscous is an unusual but perfect match to the soft sweetness of the fish.
The last time I went, I had the Braised Duck Breast with Espresso and Habanero Glaze, and it was one of the most delicious dishes I have tasted in a long time. The duck was tender and moist, and the sauce had overtones of smokiness and spiciness that were amazing.
Two other dishes that I've tried and have really enjoyed are St. Jacob's Zucchini; deep-fried zucchini, cured Serrano ham & Manchego cheese, and Asian Veggies and Noodles: longbeans, oyster mushrooms, corn, peppers, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, cabbage, etc...
Other options on the menu that look great but I have not tried: Sizzling Garlic Shrimp (I'm guessing that these are the "gambas con ajillo" that I always order and love at Dali. They are to die for...), Grilled Lobster Tail with Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc and Boursin Whipped Mashed Potatoes (yum...), Chicken Kiev - melted butter & herbs inside crispy chicken breast, Grilled Indian Lamb (w/marinated tomato; yogurt & mint sauce; garlic-toasted Lavash bread), Brie en Croute (Brie, walnuts, bacon in puff pastry), and Tuna Lavash (raw tuna, bacon, lettuce and tomato wrap). There is also a daily ceviche special that always looks great.
I am not a vegetarian, but Cuchi Cuchi does seem vegetarian-friendly to me. Looking through the menu, I see at least five or six meatless dishes.
The desserts ($6-$8 each), not surprisingly, are as amazing as the rest of the food. The last time that I was there, I had the French Banana Bread. I can't remember exactly what was in it, but it somehow incorporated a banana cake with ice cream and cooked bananas, and was totally amazing. The coffee is always good and strong, and there are a variety of after-dinner cordials offered, as well.
To Sum Up..
Cuchi Cuchi is a great place to go with friends, or to celebrate a special occasion (or any occasion, for that matter...), and to have a great time. The combination of the funky ambiance, engaging waiters, and incredible food make for an unforgettable dining experience. The next time you're in the Boston area (and if you aren't planning to be, you should! Boston is a great city!) swing by Cuchi Cuchi for a good time.