Restaurant review: Cha Cha Laca, Edinburgh

Cha Cha Laca. Picture: TSPL
Cha Cha Laca. Picture: TSPL
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Metachronal rhythm is the sequential action of structures such as cilia or legs, like those of a millipede.

87 Hanover Street,

Edinburgh

(0131-220 6733)

Another example of this phenomenon is when people stand up in their seats at a sports event, raise their arms and sit down again, though there’s a different sort of Mexican wave at the moment – a food one.

In the capital we’ve got newbies including Bodega and Chimichanga, and Glasgow has Pinto (which has just opened in Edinburgh too), Juan Chihuahua and Topolabamba, among others.

I’m chowing on more burritos than I have in eight years of reviewing.

This is the newest addition, named after a Mexican bird, and owned by the people behind Bar Napoli and Grand Cru, both also on Hanover Street.

It has appeared with little fanfare; there doesn’t even appear to be a website yet.

However, the decor is louder than their arrival has been, with Pulp Fiction-esque typography outside and, inside, zany wallpaper that makes you feel as if you’re looking into a zoetrope while experiencing a migraine aura.

Order from the set lunch menu, Monday to Sunday, noon until 5pm, at two courses for a ridiculously shrapnel-friendly £7.50, or go à la carte (with mini sharing dishes, normal-sized mains, and the usual fajita and burrito options) as we did.

It soon became clear that presentation ain’t a strong point, especially when it came to the ceviche acapulco (£4.95). This resembled a slop of mangled Chum including ragged prawn bits and squid stubs, all topped with watery salsa, avocado, coriander and green chillies, with tortilla chips on the side. I couldn’t find any of the billed olives and capers, not that I really wanted to.

Still, if I closed my eyes while chewing, the citrusy sea flavour didn’t seem half bad.

The best of our orders was atun tostadas (£4.95 for two). Sometimes the filling in these soft saucer-sized tortillas can be a bit sparse, but they’d stacked them out with Oil of Ulay-coloured chipotle mayo, cubes of soft seared tuna, lettuce, neon pink pickled onion hoops and a rich and hot sediment-textured caramelised dressing. Dirty sweet.

Their signature dish of chachalaca nachos (£5.95) consisted of a huge plateful of black, red and plain tortilla chips, green chilli, squiggles of runny sour cream, tomato cubes, refried black beans, grated (and not melted) ranchero cheese and strips of slightly chewy but flavoursome steak.

It was OK, but would have tasted better eaten mindlessly in front of the television.

“This reminds me of the time I accidentally chewed on a plectrum,” said my dining partner, when it came to the flour tortillas that were served as part of the cochinita pibil tacos (£4.10 for three). This was a back-handed compliment, as she liked the chewy texture alongside a downy filling of tomatoey slow roasted pork, even if they had forgotten to add the refried bean ingredient.

Never mind, as the latter appeared with a mole poblano (£11.95) main, as recommended by our waiter. This mound of smooth mouse-brown beans was served alongside a huge chicken breast and a patty of yellow rice. The moisture was provided by Ibarra chocolate-injected, sesame seed-sprinkled and mild mole sauce, which was fragrant with cinnamon.

I’m often disappointed by mole, as it always seems to lack depth, but this was up there among the better examples.

We didn’t really need the side dish of cascabel zucchini (£1.95), so it kind of got neglected. Still, if you like the sound of nuclear hot courgette chunks with a mega salty mixture of sweetcorn and melted cheese, knock yourself out.

I have a lot of sweet teeth, one of which has a filling in it, so I enjoyed cinnamon and sugar churros (£4.95).

These boasted a calcified armour of sugar with a dense doughy middle and came with chocolate sauce, but none of the orange creme that had been mentioned on the menu. The flan de vainilla (£4.25) was a bit lumpily textured, but we ate all of the custardy emulsion.

However, don’t bother with the Mexican hot chocolate (£2.75), which was watery, lukewarm and tasted of saccharine.

Sadly, my metachronal rhythm is out of sync, and I didn’t have the strength to organise a Mexican wave for this restaurant.

All they’re getting is a medium pressure high five.

VERDICT

How much?

Lunch for two, excluding drinks,

£45.80

FOOD

6.5/10

AMBIENCE

6.5/10

TOTAL

13/20