Friday, August 12, 2011

That's odd...

5616 Bandera Road
(just inside Loop 410)

It's been about ten years since I was last in Cha Cha's. I used to go for breakfast with a friend who particularly liked the place, and another couple we used to hang out with liked it for dinner. I don't remember feeling particularly strongly about the place one way or t'other, so when I happened to be on that side of town and looking for a place to eat breakfast, there it was, nestled in by Zarzamora Creek, across from the Sushi-B. Why the hell not.
Emiliano Zapata
one of the Great Men of
Western Civilization

Here's what it was like: my friend and I were the only people in the place. That's not too odd; it wasn't really prime breakfasting hours, though it seemed a little odd to be so entirely alone in such a well-known place. We were seated promptly by a cheerful waiter who was fascinated by my friend's T-shirt, with its colourful depictions of various coleoptera, and whose mustache I found oddly interesting, insofar as one side went up like Hercule Poirot's, while the other side went down like Emiliano Zapata's. One is a favourite literary character, the other is a favourite historical character. That has nothing whatsoever to do with this restaurant; I just found it curious.

I found something on the breakfast menu called huevos texanos, which I had never heard of. The Moustache informed me that it was eggs topped by a chili gravy such as they use on enchiladas, with onions and yellow cheese. That sounded good, so I ordered it, with coffee. My friend Rick ordered huevos rancheros.

The coffee came, in a French press. This may make for "attractive after-dinner presentation," and it may be a simple mechanism, but not if you don't know how to use it. It seems that the Mustache didn't. He put before me a cup filled with grounds. After a second try he took the device off to the kitchen, where apparently resided someone with greater experience. Eventually the coffee returned, sans press and sans grounds. We sat back and awaited our breakfast, diverted by the vaguely pornographic ads in the local throwaway weekly rag.

Soon, though, the Mustache returned to tell us that he had been roundly chastised by the cook because he didn't ask us how we wanted our eggs prepared. We both asked for them over medium, which satisfied him, and he left.

A minute or two later, the other employee approached our table and said, without elaboration, "Huevos texanos." I somehow expected more, but after just a moment realized he was asking who at our table had ordered that dish. I admitted my role in the scene, and he asked me, again, how I wanted my eggs. I said "over medium." He looked at Rick and said, with a moderately thick accent that required some concentration to decode, but was not at all unintelligible, "You want eggs over medium too?" And Rick admitted to that preference.

Shortly after this scene, our other employee returned and said, again, "Huevos texanos." I looked at him, and at Rick, and finally realized that he was again asking who, at our table, had ordered this apparently very difficult and demanding dish. I again identified myself, and he said, "With onions on top?"
The Metropolitan Health District has no
inspection listed on line for this location.

It occurred to me that this was not a trick question, so I answered in the affirmative, and he left me to return to the mild pornography of the throwaway rag. Before long, though, he returned yet again, this time bearing two dishes. He stood by the table uncertainly, and finally said, "Huevos texanos?" For a third time I identified myself as the destination for that dish, and it was placed before me. I sampled the sauce, which I found disappointingly thin, but pleasingly flavourful. The eggs were fully covered by it, and the rest of the plate was completely covered by refried beans and fried potatoes in small chunks. Flour tortillas were made available as well. Rick's huevos rancheros looked almost indistinguishable, except that his sauce was chunkier than mine.

I sampled the beans, which were good; they were neither dry nor runny, and I'm happy whenever I get refritos that don't have the soapy taste of lard. The potatoes were actually very good: cooked in very hot oil for close to the perfect length of time, they had a little crunch on the outside and lots of softness inside. Rick confirmed that he shared these appraisals of the side-dishes.

"Over medium" is, it appears, a concept unfamiliar to the cooks at Cha Cha's. To me, and to Rick, it means that the whites are fully set and the yolks are completely runny. My egg whites were runny. Rick's were hardly cooked at all. Describing what we got as "over medium" would be to stretch that term beyond credibility, kind of like a Virginia Republican congressman describing elements of Obama's health-care proposal. I thought about sending it back, but it's not like an undercooked steak; you can't just scrape off the sauce and throw a couple of fried eggs on the grill for another minute, not after they've had a knife taken to them; and neither of us wanted to wait for another batch to be prepared. We made do, not entirely satisfied by, nor repulsed by the error.

We got a refill of coffee, poured this time from a styrofoam cup.

Despite the lack of frying-time for the eggs, and the peculiarities incident to their delivery, and despite the technological issues with coffee preparation, the flavour of both our breakfasts and the coffee was good overall, right down to the flour tortillas served on the side. The place is clean, pleasant and comfortable, and the prices are in the range that I consider reasonable for what you get.

Cha Cha's on Urbanspoon

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