Tamara says to Fernanda:

"I believe this would be a perfectly lovely bowl in which to serve one of our 'straight up' dishes!"




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Improper Bostonian

Small Plates, Big Tastes
Charles Mokriski

"The strip of Main Street in Cambridge between Kendall and Central squares is a veritable United Nations of cuisine. Irish, Italian, Chinese and French are all in attendance. Building on this international neighborhood ambience, Cuchi Cuchi borrows a little from all of them, presenting a truly cosmopolitan menu. It does this with an engaging format of 'small plates', dishes the size of appetizers that make it possible to traverse the menu - and the globe - in one visit.

Cuchi Cuchi's offerings are substantial in size and the price hovers around $7 or $8 (with only a few offerings at $10 or above). This approach to dining is one of my favorite strategies for achieving variety while avoiding the overindulgence that attends typical gargantuan main-course portions. When dining with friends or family, we frequently order a selection of appetizers, ignoring or sharing a main course.

Set one foot in the door of Cuchi Cuchi, and you know you're in for fun no matter what's on the menu. The striking, colorful décor is almost as eclectic as the food. Eye-catching features run riot: yellow wooden paneling, leaded panes of stained glass, art deco glass blocks dividing the bar from the dining room, gold café curtains, and a multitude of lamps, sconces and chandeliers. Oak tables are furnished with comfortable upholstered chairs. A black marble fountain of Venus and lesser gods flanks an elaborate white art deco pedestal at the hostess station. Rustic beams and ceiling fans complete the picture.

A small earthenware casserole of sizzling garlic shrimp ($7) proved a splendid starter. About two dozen medium-size shrimp basked, and absorbed, the pungent garlic. Their crunchy texture was first-rate. Next came grilled trout with charred lemon slices and lentil puree ($8), an impeccably boned fillet, seared so that the flesh was firm, and served in a refreshing, lemony sauce that enhanced rather than obscured the fish's flavor. The mellow lentil puree balanced the tang of the lemon.

The risotto with porcini and portobello mushrooms ($8), in a portion ample enough for two, arrived hot and fresh. Well-populated with mushrooms, the risotto had a cheesy flavor as pungent as goat or sheep's cheese. I was surprised to learn that it was parmesan. (Our waitress, who was as informed as she was efficient, suggested that a heavy dose of rosemary in the risotto may have thrown me off the scent.) A second pasta offering, tortellini with shrimp and lemon and fennel broth ($8), was excellent. These ricotta-filled beauties were perfectly tender, a texture too seldom encountered in restaurant tortellini. The garnish of shrimp and slices of cherry tomatoes, swimming in a buttery, creamy, lemony sauce along with al dente chards of fennel, made the dish splendid.

Meat courses included Portuguese chanfana ($7), described on the menu as 'wine-braised lamb', which our waitress more accurately termed a stew. It consisted of chunks of lamb in rich, dark sauce studded with pearl onions. The sauce, with its complex array of spices, was so good that after the lamb was gone, I asked for a spoon to finish it off.

Following the lamb, we moved on to the braised duck shank with espresso and habanero glaze ($9), another seriously sauced offering. Thicker than the sauce that accompanied the lamb, the duck sauce was fruity and slightly sweet. It thoroughly coated the duck leg, which was fork-tender in the manner of a confit. A crunchy, refreshing Asian cabbage salad with carrots and red peppers balanced the heft of the sauce.

Cuchi Cuchi has a solid, reasonably priced wine list, with a number of bottles priced in the low-and mid-$20s. We tried the Domaine Baron de Rothschild (Lafitte), a Chilean cabernet sauvignon from the 2000 vintage. While not quite the equivalent of its namesake, this wine - well structured, fruity, with a fine bouquet - was worthy of its pedigree and a bargain at $24.

Cuchi Cuchi's desserts were the least successful part of its program and were priced rather aggressively compared with the delectable dishes that preceded them. Already nearing the point of being too full, we steered clear of the chocolate mousse with peanut butter, and French banana bread, settling instead on the 'layered lime custard, strawberry cheesecake, tulip cake' ($7).

Cuchi Cuchi's service was impeccable throughout: efficient, informed and friendly. With its imaginative format, well-run kitchen and engaging ambience, it's a welcome addition to this diverse neighborhood."


Cuchi Cuchi
795 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
Tel: 617.864.2929     Fax: 617.864.7997