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Asia de Cuba - Good from afar, but far from good. (long and incredibly boring)

srf1 | Aug 30, 200101:51 PM

Went to Asia de Cuba a few nights ago and let's just say it was less than inspiring. I have to keep reminding myself that this is just a hotel restaurant (but it's hard to say that in SF, with offerings like Masa's, Fifth Floor, Campton Place, etc etc).

Anyways, the change in the Clift is amazing!! I walked through the doors and didn't know where I was - total rebuild!! Very W-ish, but nice sitting rooms in the lobby, interesting fabrics - all in all, pretty cool. The Clift was a landmark, but it did NEED a heavy overhaul - I just didn't expect it in this direction. On to the Redwood Room - at least he didn't rip too much of this down - changed the entryway drastically, but much of the old feeling is gone (how could it stay, with those plasma screens on the wall). Ten bucks for a mojito - where did you stay in Cuba, Ian? I guess somebody has to pay for all the remodeling.

Finally, Asia de Cuba - we threw a party in this ballroom at the old Clift and it was a wonderful event. They really didn't change the structure of the room, just a lot of dark velvet wall hangings, a repaint and the Disney-ish entryway - I kept waiting for some type of cheesy Space Mountain background music, that or Hal (from 2001) to say: "Dave, what are you doing?". I didn't see any signs regarding rider height, so I dont believe that was the effect they were aiming for. The hostess table had just the right amount of scowl/sneer to announce that we were in the right faux-hip place. We were seated (cramped) and brought our menus and wine list. The wine list was rather small for a regular upscale restaurant and priced like most hotel restaurants, which is to say, overpriced. We picked out a bottle of Luca Malbec for only 3x retail, but I could live with that.

The dishes here have large proportions and are meant to be shared family-style, so we ordered 1 appetizer and 2 main courses. We started with the duck salad. This was actually very good - great flavors, the duck was cooked nicely, sauced well, all on top of a Cuban style cornbread pancake that was nicely crisped. Our first main course was a very good pork dish - pork loin in a sweet marinade, sliced and fanned out over baby bok choy and shiitakes. This had a nice soy-ginger sauce and I enjoyed it very much. The second main course was the disaster and also the reason I wouldn't poke my head in this place again except for drinks (and probably not even then). We were looking at the wok seared whole fish, but our server pumped up the Seafood Paella (which, surprise surprise, was the most expensive dish). Now I'm not blaming her - I ordered it and will take full responsibility, but when we asked her why it's priced at $65 (yes, I know I'm stupid - I paid $65 for paella!!), she replied that it was due to all the seafood involved. Well, let's just say I could go to the local market and get "all" this seafood for about $8. One tiny lobster - more the size of a langoustine, 2 scallops, 3 shrimp and about 5-6 each of mussels and clams. The funniest thing is, I could have dealt with that if the paella itself was good. But it wasn't - and I mean it wasn't!! It sucked!! (I hate using that word, but this dish deserved it) The rice was gummy and felt like it had corn starch added to give it a velvety-feeling. We could barely eat a few forkfuls of it and the little my wife did eat, made her feel sick. We could have had a better paella at numerous restaurants locally for a fraction of the price (Zarzuela, Alegrias, etc). Plus, AdC's paella was just rice, a few vegetables and beans - no sausage or any other flavor enhancers - super bland. All in all, a disappointment. I usually won't let one bad dish spoil a place, but this left me with quite a bad taste in my mouth (pun intended). I dont need to go back, not when there are so many great restaurants here that wont gouge you. If anybody does venture there I would suggest sticking to more of the appetizers and salads as we saw some good looking ones - the spring rolls and the tuna tower as well as the whole fish for an entree.

A couple of other notes: we heard about slow/new service, so we basically took advantage of our servers presence whenever possible, so in that respect our service was decent. However, we did notice a couple of tables nearby that were waiting quite a time between courses or to get cleared. Also, the music can be loud. The wall coverings diminish some of the din, but this is an LA/Miami-style place, more of a scene than a destination restaurant.

Forewarned is forearmed.

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