I must say I was reluctant at first to go to Cuba after hearing all the reviews but after some of my Cuban relatives went and raved about it I decided to give it a try. We were up in CH today for the Fall Arts Festival (note: really fun I highly recommend it) and after it was over my mother (she's the Cuban one) happened to mention that she just happened to have some rum in her trunk and that we should go to Cuba for some drinks and snacks. A coincidence? I think not!
So we go and I am not all that hungry having eaten some tasty festival food (funnel cake and Kettle Korn) but the four of us agree on 2 mojitos, an order of empanadas and the Ropa Vieja. We are seated outside on their new deck at our request (today was such a beautiful day!) and we are immediately given bread and butter. The rolls are pillow soft and light, the butter creamy and delicate. I do appreciate nice bread and butter. The waiter then takes our bottle of rum and returns with the mojitos. I have had a few mojitos in my life and these were some of the best. Very minty, which I like, not overly sweet and clearly made with a simple syrup not granulated sugar so the texture was not grainy. Very good!
The food arrives in a fairly short order and we partake. First, the empanadas...delicious!! The pastry crust was flakey and flavorful the chicken filling tender and juicy without making the crust soggy. They were served with a delicate sour cream based sauce flavored with orange juice and lime zest (yes, I asked...I ask a lot of questions). We annihilated them. Even my husband who is at best a finicky eater raved about them. Once we had the chicken empanadas we decided we had to try the vegetable ones, so we ordered those. Wow! The filling was a wonderful mixture of spinach, raisins, and other vegetable goodness. The raisins gave them just a hint of sweetness.
Now, the ropa vieja...I am very particular about my ropa vieja. I have very fond memories of my grandfather making this. For me the texture of the meat has to be that perfect combination of stringy YET tender. The sauce tangy, zesty and ever so slightly sweet, the vegetables cooked but not mushy. The meat has to cook for a long time yet the overall taste of the dish needs to remain vibrant. This is not an easy task but I am happy to say that they pulled it off!! The dish arrived, hot and on a bed of short grain rice, a slight dusting of orange zest and cilantro giving it a charge of freshness and zing. After my first bite I wished my Abuelo were alive to taste this. We were also served a dish of black beans, also very good, the flavor mellow, the texture of the beans just right. Well, after the four of us (my mother, sister, husband and I) polished off the first order we ordered another (remember we walked in not really hungry) the flavor was just so good we wanted more.
The service was excellent! Our waiter was extremely patient with me and very knowledgeable about the food. He was happy to take his time with us and go into detail about the ingredients. We took our time outside on the deck. At no time did we feel rushed. It was such a pleasant dining experience. The combination of great service, a masterfully made drink and wonderful food was something I haven't encountered in a long time. I should also mention that the ladies' room was clean, fresh and fully stocked (I always comment on the bathrooms, they are an important part of the overall restaurant experience). So, in conclusion I like the restaurant and I will be back. We didn’t order a wide variety of dishes but I can recommend without hesitation the ones I mentioned.
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