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Sun-drenched Food

August 02, 1987| Compiled by David Pecchia

Fresh fish, coconuts, chiles and passion fruit. Is it any wonder that Caribbean cuisine is the latest rage? THE BEAUX TIE GRILL (7458 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 765-5965). Who says you can't get a great meal in North Hollywood? Chef/owner Jardin Kazaar whips up very pleasing Jamaican/Cajun food in this new restaurant. Begin with deep-fried crunchy catfish strips in a batter that delivers a nice, hot bite; the fish so fresh it melts on your tongue. The Chef's Surprise salad is a refreshing one. Beside the usual vegetables, it sports tender strips of calamari and little pockets of garlicky sauteed mushrooms. Some entrees to consider: charbroiled lamb chops basted in a tangy Jamaican sauce; baked salmon with jalapeno cream sauce; grilled shrimp; hot seafood salad; steak Diane and more. There's no formal wine list, but patrons are urged to bring their own, thereby forming a "wine pool" from which to choose. Open for lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner Tue.-Sat. M, V, DC. Dinner for two, food only, $20-$30. CHA CHA CHA (656 N. Virgil (at Melrose), Los Angeles, (213) 664-7723). Upon entering this baby blue room, many diners will notice the homage to Carmen Miranda on one wall, and the banana painting on the other. You might also spot a celebrity or two as you approach your table. Feel the electricity buzzing about, and you haven't yet tasted the food! Sopes de pollo are little cornmeal cups that hold cubes of chicken, black beans, minced tomatoes, cilantro, onions and sauteed peppers. The flavors are fresh and distinct. The Latin pizza is remarkable for its beauty; it comes covered with a veritable cornucopia of snow peas, tomatoes, peppers, onions. . . . An all-star entree: pollo poblano , a version of chicken in mole sauce. The darkly spicy and fabulously flavorful coating clings to the bird, making each bite slightly different than the last. Ready for some dessert? Then order up the bright orange frozen mango (in the shell) which will dance in your mouth. Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly. Valet parking. Beer and wine. All major credit cards. Dinner for two, food only, $20-$40.

JAMAICA JAMAICA (2205 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, (213) 301-6006). Siren-red fringed lamps, wine-velvet banquettes, beautiful low lights, pink linens and a ceiling full of stars . . . no, it's not a bordello, but a restaurant worthy of a Caribbean section of New York. Madeleines dipped into lime-blossom tea. A first-rate goat and jerk chicken whose flavors seem to bounce in polyrhythms off the tongue. The brown stew chicken is lusciously marinated. As with European and Latin dishes made en escabeche , oil and vinegar, red and green peppers are tossed over a baked or fried fish and then briefly sauteed. The fish here is tender inside its gleaming crust. A Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is a good evening topper, or maybe a rum drink topped with a paper parasol. If it's dance night, push back your chair and tap toes to the reggae beat. Open for dinner Tue.-Sun. Dancing Thur.-Sun. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday Brunch. Parking in lot. Full bar. All major credit cards. Dinner for two, food only, $20-$45.

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