Cha Cha Cha: A Shootout With El Patio
Cha Cha Cha (32 Lorong Mambong, 6462-1650), I was told, is the better of the two Mexican places that sit right next to each other in Holland Village. Seeing that I was a bit bummed with its neighbor El Patio, we came to Cha Cha Cha for lunch today to see if it really were any better. The signs were encouraging at first when a fresh basket of chips and salsa arrived at the table even before ordering. Sure, it wasn't a very big basket, but the salsa's freshness and tastiness promised good food ahead. Score one point for Cha Cha Cha.
We started with an interesting twist (or perhaps the origin?) of the American jalapeno popper: the jalapeno rellenos, which like chile relleno, were dipped in an egg batter (instead of bread crumbs) before deep-frying. Now, these didn't have any sauce covering it up in the end like chile relleno usually does, but that would have taken it too far away from the jalapeno poppers that they were probably effectively trying to present anyway. In the end, this was a respectable twist on it all; the score was now two points in favor of Cha Cha Cha over El Patio.
Then came the main courses: the cheese enchiladas and the beef soft tacos. A big sigh of relief came over me when the plates came and showed how these guys didn't do any of that lame sour cream drizzling all over the enchiladas (yay!). An evil grin also emerged on my face when I saw all the oil oozing out of the cheese and onto the plate. But this wasn't a home run either: instead of an enchilada sauce on top of the cheese, these guys put a scoop of chili con carne on top. The dish overall was still better than El Patio, and hence a full point should be awarded to Cha Cha Cha as a result, but the chili on the enchiladas warrants a half point penalty. The running score at that point? Cha Cha Cha had a two and a half point lead.
Finally came the beef soft tacos. Interestingly, they presented these unassembled, complete with a little red plastic tortilla keeper on the side as well as a glob of sour cream, guacamole, and salsa...kinda like what one does with fajitas. And as a result, they didn't do any of that lame sour cream drizzling all over it either. But the tortillas were way too big for tacos (again, it was more appropriate for big chunks of fajita meat, and was probably the same tortilla used for the enchiladas). And I prefer my tacos to be more of the simpler grilled-meat and onions variety, which to me is much tastier than this one. Well, let's give a half point here.
So the winner is - as expected - Cha Cha Cha, with a three point lead over its next door neighbors. If this really were some sort of Mexican-food-in-Singapore tournament, I suppose that these guys would advance to the next round to go up against the likes of Chico's & Charlie's or even Cafe Iguana. I'm not sure which would fare the best out of these at this point. Chico's & Charlies was guilty of that sour cream drizzling on top too (and it looks like their parents at Harry's have renamed the place after themselves recently). Even Cafe Iguana, whose tacos appropriately used smaller tortillas, was guilty of some serving me some horrendously stale chips a couple years ago. Well, I've already come to terms with that fact that I'm not going to get anything like I had back home while I'm out here, but at least I've filtered down the list to find at least some that are half-bearable.