Chica Chica

Jackie McMillan
14th Oct 2023

With rattan lamp shades and wall hangings, and a washed-out coastal colour palate, Chica Chica sits well after a day at the nearby Ettalong beach. Sun-kissed salty skin always makes me want margaritas, and this first floor restaurant obliges with a full menu of options. Bright citrusy Tajin on the rim made the cucumber chilli margarita ($19) a winner, edging out a classic margarita ($18) mixed to the requested sour. 

We hit a roadblock when we moved on to mezcal. In a misinterpretation of liquor licensing laws, staff refused to serve it alongside a Stone & Wood Pacific Ale ($9) chaser. The law doesn’t actually say you can’t be double-parked, and boilermakers—necking SMT beer after the young and smoky Los Siete Misterios ($15)—is a common way to enjoy this spirit. They also have Casamigos ($15), made in Oaxaca using 100 per cent Espadín agave. It’s subtler on smoke with a smooth finish that has hints of vanilla caramel and black pepper. 

Market fish ceviche ($26) is the menu star, despite the frugal amount of kingfish. It sits in a clever soupy mix of spicy coconut base that made me wish for a spoon. It’s garnished with chilli, cucumber, Spanish onion, peanuts, finger lime and salmon roe. Garlic chilli prawns ($26) were toothsome and simple on toast. From the taco list, steak and prawns ($28/2) were over-priced but enjoyable, accentuating the surf’n’turf with a smoky paprika-spiked béchamel, pickled onions, and a salsa made from wood fired pimentos. 

The only thing that I found lacking at Chica Chica was the flavour of the wood-fire grill—normally a feature of Argentinian restaurants. This complexity was particularly absent in the Silver Fern Argus rib-eye ($45/350 grams) teamed with spring onions, smoked eggplant puree and jus. With Brussels sprouts ($12) undercooked and going out of season, give them a miss in favour of patatas ($12). Fluffy on the inside, and crisp everywhere else, these were some of the best cooked potatoes I’ve had this year.