Though the signage still reads No Joe’s, chef Eduardo Bover is cooking authentic Cuban food in the kitchen of ChikyBoom, where the dining room features a Caribbean feel. (Photo above by John T. Ward; below by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
If you remember the song “Cuban Pete,” made famous by Desi Arnaz, you know the bongos and maracas playing to the rhumba beat: chick-chicka-boom.
The same might be said about ChikyBoom, the former No Joe’s coffee shop-and-luncheonette on Broad Street in Red Bank that’s now a Cuban-and-Spanish restaurant — when it’s not serving coffee and breakfast.
Running the Chikyboom kitchen is Eduardo Bover, born in Cuba to a “restaurant family” and living in this country since 1985.
“I was looking for a new cooking job online, and saw that they wanted a head chef who cooks Cuban food,” Bover tells PieHole, referring to new owners Dan Salazar and his wife, Grisel; her sister, Adela Carrazana; and newly acquired partner Lou DiDonno. “We Skyped and I came in for an interview. They needed to find a chef with a personality that meshed. You have leave your ego at the door,” he said.
Bover had his initial education at the stoves of his grandparents and father, all professional cooks. Many of the recipes he uses today come from his childhood.
“My father told me it’s a tough job. He wanted me to be a doctor or something else,” he says. “Then he tasted my cooking and thought maybe I should be a chef.”
After graduating from Borough of Manhattan Community College and working for the city of New York for a year as a civil engineer, Bover says, “I got bored. I wanted to become a professional cook.”
He took classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. Working “here and there” in restaurant kitchens in the city, Bover says he got tired of the cold winter weather and moved to Florida.
“I was going to drive trucks,” he said. “It took me three weeks and I said, this is not for me. So I got a job as a seasonal chef.” Once the season was over, Bover realized that he would need another job, which eventually led him to Red Bank.
“Move to New Jersey? I thought, why not New Jersey?” he said.
Bover tells PieHole that Chikyboom’s menu features tapas, or small plates, in addition to the cena, or dinner, menu filled with Cuban, Spanish and Portuguese influenced entrees. Tapas isn’t something the Cubans traditionally do.
The tapas dishes such as the empanadas and stuffed meatballs — a favorite dish the chef wishes everyone would try — are only part of the menu. The kitchen offers breakfast, lunch and complete dinners, such as churrasco de la casa and vaca frita, which translates to fried cow, a pan-fried skirt steak. The menu is in both Spanish and English giving you a chance to order your meal either way.
Cuban dishes such as lechon asada, or roasted pork, and ropa vieja — a slow-cooked, shredded beef — add an authentic touch to the menu, which also includes the more Mediterranean flavors of Spain by way of a mariscada and paella. These recipes have a more sun-kissed citrus influence and are well seasoned but not spiced with the heat of chili peppers that you find in Mexican cooking. The tastes, influenced with garlic, herbs and spices, play to a cultivated palate.
You’ll find traditional recipes such as grilled steaks and roasted chicken on the lunch and dinner menus served with plantain chips, pickled onions and a terrific coleslaw made with pickled — not mayonnaise sauced — vegetables, which the chef says is one of his signatures.
“I enjoy what I do,” Bover says. “When a customer says. ‘wow, what a meal,’ that excites me,” I wouldn’t know what else to do. It’s a dry and boring life without cooking.”
ChikyBoom, a BYO, is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. except on Friday and Saturday, when it stays open until 11 p.m.