A TASTE OF CUBA (1)

TRENDY VIBES IN OLD HAVANA – Restaurant HABANA61 

A night spent in Habana 61, the charming restaurant located in the northern part of Havana Vieja near El Museo de La Revolucion and Santo Angel Church, not very far from Plaza 13 de Marzo, is more than a dinner out. Is like being teleported in a very trendy restaurant in the famous area of Chueca in Madrid. But this is just because of deco and service style. When you open the menu, you realise that you didn’t leave Cuba at all.

The restaurant has an intimate atmosphere, only 10-12 tables with a decor very modern with a trendy vibe, it is the contrast of old Havana with clean and elegant interior. The restaurant is very popular and gets very busy after 8.00PM, therefore to book a table in advance is a great idea. Of course, you can walk in and wait at the bar and enjoying one of their great cocktails, hoping that your table will be available before you get too marry on their excellent Mojitos.

A very good sign is the menu: not very big and not very sophisticated granted the fact that everything is fresh and cooked on the spot. Even if you get lost in mouth-watering choices, the staff is there to give guide you in a nice contemporaneous culinary journey. Simple like that: Havana 61 proposes the enjoyment of traditional Cuban cuisine enhanced with contemporary ideas.

After the mandatory Mojitos we opted to share an Octopus Carpaccio and Fried Malanga. Malanga is a the root of a plant known for both its ornamental value, commonly known in the garden world as “elephant ear.”  Very high in fibre and calories “Frituras de Malanga” was absolutely delicious: crispy and tasty was served with “miel de ajo” a combination of honey and garlic which match with its fusion of flavours the texture of the fried root. I was ready to order another one when the charming waitress warn that I already ordered a little bit too much food and I need to leave some space for the next course. The “Carpaccio de Pulpo” was pure heaven, seasoned with the right type and amount of spices to let the overpowering flavour of the octopus to get the right touch of my palate.

A piece of advice: avoid the bred. Is so fresh, tasty and, even, cute that you will finish the basket before the food arrives at your table!

For the main course, we opted for two traditional Cuban dishes: “Camarones a la criolla” and “Ropa Vieja” and taking as sides banana chips and “Moros y Cristianos”. Thinking back, I am sure that the sides we choose can be a perfect lunch. I still don’t know how in Cuba they manage to make those amazing banana chips – they are crunchy with a delicious twist salty-sweet. “Moros y Cristianos” is a famous Cuban dish served at virtually every Cuban restaurant. It is the Cuban version of rice and beans: “Moors” refers to the black beans, and “Christians” to the white rice. The name of the dish is a reference to the Islamic invasion (early 8th century) of Spain and subsequent Reconquista (15th century) in which Spanish Christians were able to force the Islamic invaders back into Africa. In Spanish (and later Cuban tradition) it is to remind people of the years of oppression under Islamic rule. Just forget about  political correctness and enjoy it.

Ropa Vieja is one of the national dishes of Cuba, consisting of stewed beef with vegetables. It originates from a Sephardic dish from the Middle Ages. The version served in Habana61 was perfectly done and seasoned and the portion was quite generous without being overwhelming. Camarones a la criolla (Shrimp in Cuban Creole Sauce) is a tasty mix of shrimp and sweet tomato sauce served with or without rice. It is a quick and fail safe dish because they don’t use in Habana61 a lot of seasonings or spices, giving you the chance to enjoy the taste and texture of the shrimps. Absolutely divine!

To end our meal, we needed again the help of our charming and efficient waitress. And she decided for us to try for dessert one of the most extraordinary dishes I’ve ever had: “Casquitos de guyaba con queso cremoso y sopita de hierba buena” – a very light dessert mixing the sweet flavour of a ½ of a guava with the smooth texture and salty taste of a creamy cheese filling all on the right amount of powerful mint sauce. What a celebration!

img_6885

The staff knew how to keep a very comfortable balance between being friendly and being efficient and nothing was over the top, like in most touristic places, giving you the chance to enjoy the explosion of flavours on the table.

The drink list was impressive too with decent prices. But as all the wine were imported from Spain, I decided to have local beer (Bucanero) even if my choice will choice will horripilate the gourmands among my friends.

Believe or not the last surprise arrived with the bill at the end of our evening in Habana61. For the gastronomic festin with beers and Mojitos only 37CUC which is more or less £30.WOW!

Great service, from start to finish, and a memorable evening.

Thank you Habana61!

 

 HABANA61

CALLE HABANA NO.61, E/ CUARTELES Y PEÑA POBRE. LA HABANA, CUBA

+ 53 7 8016433

RESERVATION@PALADARHABANA61.COM

~ by leonard69 on January 26, 2017.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: