We made it to the Cuban restaurant in Palo Alto last Saturday.
I followed Chowhound's advice and ordered the empanada and the Cubano sandwich. Oh, how I hate to disagree with fellow chowhound, but I must say those two highly touted items were only okay to my taste buds. Three small empanadas were served with a black bean "salsa" of sorts. The filling was shredded pork that is not too flavorful, seems to be too small to taste anything beside the crust, which was flaky and light. It needed to be punchier I thought, more spices?
The Cubano sandwich was a pressed sandwich with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and turkey served with a side of green salad with a Caesar sort of dressing. I liked the sandwich okay, but it wasn't an eye opening experience. The tastes of all the ingredients did all meld together nicely, but then how great can turkey, ham and cheese be?
The other items ordered by the table (not mentioned by previous posts) were actually quite good in our opinion. We ordered the oven roasted mussels for appetizers and that was delicious. It came with a soy lime sauce of sorts. Just the right touch of sourness to set off the brininess of the mussels. The juices were readily sopped up by the table bread.
For entrees we also ordered Ropa Vieja and Tierra Y Mar. The Ropa Vieja was a shredded skirt steak served on top of rice and some fried plantains. The finely shredded beef was tender and full of flavor, probably braised for a long time with all the tomatoes and chilies and spices. Tierra Y mar was a surf and turf dish. Some strips of steak served between two corn/cheese arepas served with coconut crusted prawns. The corn/cheese arepas were delicious, pancakes of starchiness and sweetness, they held up nicely to the steak. Four generous size tiger prawns were crusted with coconut and fried. The coconut provided the crunch factor as well as a good hint of sweetness.
For dessert we had the caramelized bananas and banana flan. Caramelized bananas were served with vanilla ice cream and a heavy cinnamon walnut sauce. The sauce was a good accompaniment, the strong cinnamon paired nicely with the bananas. My banana flan came with a grilled banana half. The flan was not too eggy, rich with banana flavor. Although the grill banana could have used more grilling and perhaps a riper banana.
Overall we had a good experience there. Other diners really enjoyed their dish. My husband LOVED his Ropa Vejia (which he often ordered back East). We probably will go back again.
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