Cha Cha’s Tamale Thursdays, Unwrapped

One night a week, downtown Brea’s lively Latin restaurant is steaming tamales with a modern twist

Cha Cha’s in Brea hits all the right spots for great Mexican cuisine, then takes it beyond. There’s a wood-fired oven and an expansive, welcoming outdoor seating area, and ingredients with provenance, like Jidori chicken and Duroc pork.

But it’s not all about meat at Cha Cha’s. At a media tasting for its new “Tamale Thursday” menu, one of the best was vegetarian, filled with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and goat cheese. Its masa casing has some black beans in the mix, and while I don’t usually like masa that’s been adulterated—to me, it’s perfect just the way it’s usually prepared for tamales—the beans lighten up the dense cornmeal mush in a very good way. It’s topped with fried carrot strips and a deeply flavored ancho chile sauce.

Look for pork, duck confit, and shrimp tamales among the varieties on the changing Thursday-only menu—prices range from $15 to $17. For just $5 more you can add one of their freshly made classic margaritas, or spring for an $8.95 frozen mojito, which gets its appealing slushy texture from the margarita machine. The easy-drinking, icy drink is a great accompaniment to the not-shy spicing on the tamales.

 

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