Cha Cha Moon, Soho, London
Try this fun Asian restaurant in Soho, and you’ll never forget the words “crispy chili beef.”
It’s no secret that the British Pound Sterling is significantly stronger than both the Euro and the US Dollar. While London can already be an expensive city to enjoy, even for British citizens, it can be even more expensive for visitors. As of today, American tourists can tack on a 46% loss to their expenses after their currency has been converted from dollars to pounds, or “quid” as it’s called there. Unless you want to go very broke, very quickly, it’s a good idea to stay away from the tempting cocktail bars, nightclubs, and high-end shops and restaurants.
Luckily, London is also a city well-suited to the budget-backpacker, or to a quick weekend getaway: It’s possible to find free exhibitions (such as the Wellcome Collection) to replace large tourist attractions that take an entire day to see, and free or cheap music to replace the notoriously lavish nightlife (check Resident Advisor for free or inexpensive shows and warehouse dance parties). Spend a day eating your way through Camden Markets to see some of the more hip and eclectic areas of London, especially for a foodie.
A few weeks back, we found ourselves in London for the weekend. We came in on a Friday afternoon and left Sunday night. It’s only a two and a half hour Eurostar ride from Gare du Nord in Paris to St. Pancras International in London.
We were beyond hungry, and I remembered Cha Cha Moon, where a local friend took us the last time we arrived in London about one year ago. It’s a massive, sprawling restaurant right in SoHo, off of Carnaby Street, a great little area to walk around and see the sights / grab some drinks afterwards. It’s got the feel of a food hall; long tables with big lights over them, insanely busy wait staff, and a huge menu. Looking into the open kitchen, you can see that they’ve got a huge operation happening, and when you see the amount of customers inside enjoying endless plates of inexpensive food, it’s no surprise why.
The only negative thing about Cha Cha Moon is that it’s really hard to choose what you want to eat. Everything looks really good. Even as I was stuffing my face, I found myself staring longingly at the selections of the group eating next to us. There are main plates of every variety; lo meins, noodle dishes, poultry and roast meats and seafoods, and an even lengthier menu of appetizers. Though some dishes are listed as “main course,” I think everything here is good for sharing, as true dim-sum is meant to be enjoyed. The choice is yours for what you order, but there’s one dish I must insist upon: it’s the reason I hadn’t forgotten this restaurant since my last visit, and the reason I made here my first stop when I got into town: it’s the crispy chili beef (pictured above). It’s thinly sliced beef with the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and lots of vinegar, breaded and fried to a crisp. It’s so good I ordered two of them. Just thinking about it now is pure agony.
To drink, they’ve got cocktails such as the Shibuya Casual, which is lychee, vodka and Martini Bianco. They’re all a little kitchy, but it adds to the experience and the fun ambiance of the restaurant. They’re strong, too. The best part about Cha Cha Moon is that when your grand feast is finished, your wallet won’t be. If you’ve ordered something costing 9 dollars–sorry, pounds–you’ve gotten the most expensive things on the menu.
When I go to London, I want to relax the time away eating, drinking and enjoying good conversation, and Cha Cha Moon is the always perfect place to start.