Havana — A Slice of Cuba in West Palm Beach

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May 7, 2010 by ritadate

I told my sister-in-law I wanted Cuban food, I just did not get my fill in Miami. She was perplexed as she had never been to a Cuban restaurant in West Palm Beach. Preferring mostly vegetarian fare, although eating chicken at times, she naturally avoids Cuban and South American restaurant but happily obliged by making a few phone calls to her friends to get some advice on places.

As we approached the recommended restaurant, Havana  we were happy to see a full parking lot lunchtime and more importantly many Cuban and Spanish patrons eating inside.

The place was small with wooden interiors and rugged wooden furniture. An elderly gentleman was our waiter and came to recommend some dishes to us after we ordered our drinks—Havana serves wine and beer. Enthusiastic about the menu he patiently answered my questions about the different options.

The menu was extensive with quite a few lunch specials as well, and everything sounded good. The usual resolve of eating white meat only is difficult in the US where there is just too much temptation and in a Cuban restaurant pork is also considered white meat! I ordered Lechon Asado con Cebolla tabien con salsa BBQ which is translates as tender pieces of marinated, lean baked roast pork, sliced and grilled with onions and a touch of mojo and BBQ sauce.

The pork was very tender and the taste was just how I like it –not overpowered with too many spices. Mojo is a lovely Cuban marinade with a few spices and some citrus, usually lime, as its base.

My mostly vegetarian sis-in-law ordered Fajitas de Polle Estilo Cubano which is not the traditional fajitas we know but marinated chicken tenders frilled with onions, green and red peppers cooked in spicy brown gravy sauce. Fajitas are more commonly known as the Mexican dish of grilled meat wrapped in a tortilla. Although it definitely had more spices than my pork, the spice content was not overdone. Same was the case with the Vaca Frita(flank steak) and Cordero en Salsa de Vino Rojo(lamb shank cooked slowly in red wine sauce and herbs) and Ropa Vieja(shredded beef cooked in Spanish sauce with peppers, tomatoes, onions and herbs. Each dish had a distinctlydifferent taste – not the meat but the marinade. The chicken was heavy with onion flavor, the lamb with a combination of onion and garlic and the beef with lime. All of the meats were tender and melted in your mouth and after eating this meal it would be difficult not to crave Cuban cuisine again.

All dishes were served with yellow rice and red or black beans went very well with all meats. Fried plantains were an indulgence but hey – it was part of the Cuban meal.

We were stuffed and could not finish our entire portions and naturally had to leave room for desert. My brother and his friends who were lunching with us are fans of Flan or Spanish pudding. It is a heavier version of caramel custard and not one of my favorites. I tried the guava with cream cheese which is highly avoidable—canned guava and hard cream cheese do not make a good combination or perhaps an aquired taste. Arroz con leche(rice pudding and Tres leches(three milk cake) were probably better choices but we were just too full to eat anymore. The perfect end was the Cuban coffee—it was strong, hit the spot and prevented us from sleeping too soon after such a heavy meal!

At an average of $7-10 for lunch entrees, Havana is value for money. My sis-in-law was excited about finding a news dining spot and to take other guests that often visit them when in Florida.

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