BY ERIC CZEPYHA
Cambridge could use a little fun, don’t you agree? Enter Cuchi Cuchi. The restaurant is fun from beginning to end — its name is fun to say, its ambiance screams “fun,” its drinks are fun to sample, and its entrees are fun to share. Given that, in my humble opinion, maximizing your “fun quotient” (to steal a term from Professor Randall Kennedy) should be the ultimate goal of any first date, I particularly implore the dating-scene folks to keep this place in mind.
Cuchi Cuchi’s setting can be described as something akin to a 1940s garage sale for the well-to-do — sounds odd, but somehow the owners have managed to pull it off. Antique chandeliers of all varieties hang in the dining room, while splendid stained glass windows light the equally colorful selection of liquors behind Cuchi Cuchi’s forty-foot bar.
Speaking of the bar, despite its emphasis on fun, Cuchi Cuchi takes its cocktails very seriously. The cocktail menu is divided into “Signature Cocktails” (all $9), “Vintage Cocktails” (all $9) and “Bottoms Up” (original Cuchi shots, all $6). The vintage list consists of a handful of the old standbys (sidecar, rob roy, mai tai, etc.). The list is also educational (for those of you who just can’t get enough education), adding a little blurb of history next to each drink (For instance, did you know that the gimlet originated in the British Navy when troops combined rations of gin and lemon to curtail scurvy? Think about that the next time you order one of those).
The signature list is reason alone to drop by this place on a Saturday night (or on a Monday through Sunday night if you’re a 3L). All signatures are made with fresh herbs and fruit. That’s right: If, for example, you order the sour apple martini, the bartender literally stands in front of you and crushes green apples and ice into a big glass. This freshness combined with a touch of creativity makes for a wonderfully tasty drink menu.
My dinner companion (who proceeded to drink me under the table) and I made it our job to sample as many signatures as possible. The winner in the frozen drink category would have to be the “Getting Layered,” a tropical sensation of Brazilian rum and mango puree. If you are looking for a twist on the classic julep, try the “Cuchi Julep” — Toru Orange vodka blended with lime, mint leaves and orange slices. For the sweet tooth, I suggest the “Dirty Little Secret,” a successful blend of Godiva White Chocolate liqueur and Stoli Vanilla vodka. Cuchi Cuchi also has six variations on the standard martini, each using a different fresh fruit, the most curious (and yet pleasant) of which is the strawberry basil martini.
Much like its décor, Cuchi Cuchi’s entrees are boldly eclectic. The menu consists of a respectable selection of “international” tapas. Restaurants that endeavor to present a selection of foods from a variety of cultures are always taking a chance at screwing up royally (e.g., Lexington, Kentucky’s International Buffet 2000 — a complete nightmare). Nevertheless, Cuchi Cuchi holds its own. Making our way around the globe, my companion and I sampled six different tapas (the number our waiter suggested, which seemed to be just enough to fill us up). Some of the more notable items included the mussels Thessalonica (a satisfying bowl of Prince Edward Island mussels bathed in a roasted red pepper and white wine sauce, $8), the Norwegian grilled salmon with red and white horseradish sauce (I’ve had better salmon, but the interaction of the red and white sauces was interesting, $8), the Brazilian pork braised in bacon and served with crimson lentil salad ($8), and the peculiar and yet delicious tuna carpaccio and salmon tartare (resting atop a colorful blend of couscous, banana and watermelon, $8).
Leaving (a little) room for dessert, I took a stab at the cornucopia pizzelle cone filled w/ fresh fruit, fruit kissel and whipped cream ($7), which proves a tangy treat for those who don’t get their fill of fresh fruit off of the martini menu. More rewarding were the homemade truffles ($7.50), consisting of champagne, orange, jasmine and rich dark chocolate varieties. I managed to wash all of this down with a “Bottoms Up” shot of “Mènage a Trois,” a smooth and creamy combination of Stoli Vanilla vodka, crème de cacao and Godiva Dark Chocolate.
Whether you are in the mood for a few drinks that are a cut above the typical Cambridge concoctions, need a place to celebrate someone’s birthday, or are looking to show your date a fun time, give Cuchi Cuchi a shot. Besides, where else in Cambridge can you experience a “Brazilian Wax,” “Menage a Trois,” and a “Dirty Little Secret” under thirty dollars?
795 Main Street
5:30PM-11PM (Bar until 12:30)