Cuba (Photo Credits: David Lindo)
222 Thompson Street between Bleecker and W. 3rd streets,
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Open for dinner, Sun-Thu from 4pm-11pm, Fri-Sat, 4pm-midnight. Lunch is served Mon-Fri 11:30am-4pm; brunch, Sat-Sun from 11am-4pm; happy hour, Mon-Fri 4pm-7pm, live Cuban music, Fri and Sat @7:30pm (see website for schedule), cigar roller on site Mon, Thu and Sat evenings. Catering and private party rooms are available.
Cuba Restaurant in the West Village Celebrates Its 10-Year Anniversary
Cuba restaurant is a rarity. For ten years, the team behind Cuba—including owner Beatriz de Armas, Executive Chef Mario Garcia, manager Viviana Cabrera and head bartender Eduardo Tavares, as well as many of the servers and other staff—have worked together in a labor of love. As a result, Cuba restaurant is like a family, their loyalty and satisfaction directly translating to the guest experience, creating an atmosphere of fun, friendliness and all-around Cuban hospitality that is unparalleled.
For 10 years, the restaurant has been capturing the spirit of Old Havana with live Cuban music, swaying palms, tropical fruits, strong signature mojitos and daiquiris, and authentic cuisine. It’s a singular and charming escape, a Little Havana on Thompson Street. Oversized automobiles and curvy dancers moving to a salsa beat are just some of the images of Cuba conjured and captured in the colorful paintings that decorate the exposed brick walls. At a table in the hammock-draped Terrace Room, you can watch the resident cigar maker hand-rolling Cuban-style cigars. Or plan a getaway to the subterranean speakeasy-like Hemingway Hideaway, or the intimate Family Room, ideal for group dining.
Cuba born and raised, Beatriz de Armas draws inspiration from her native Cuba and iconic places notoriously frequented by Ernest Hemingway, such as La Bodeguita Del Medio (famous for the mojito) and El Floridita (perfector of the daiquiri), as well as Latin influences and places she has lived including Valencia, Spain—the spark behind the menu’s list of paellas. Together with Chef Garcia, who trained under Chef David Martinez of the world famous Hotel Nacional in Cuba, the two have become a dynamic team encompassing the quality, tradition and essence of the Cuban sabor. They have collaborated on a menu that not only expresses Cuba’s primary culinary influences from African slaves and Spanish settlers, but also includes other, complementary Latin flavors.
Chef Martinez is not only highly trained, but produces a high-level cuisine with a contemporary twist. For the tenth anniversary, he has created several new dishes, while also keeping many of the popular standards. New appetizers include a remarkable “Chicharron Prensado,” delicious braised pork belly with a parchment-crispy balsamic glazed skin, accompanied by congri—a blessed combination of rice and beans enhanced by a layer of nicely spiced Spanish chorizo and green peas, for an addictive flavor combination. There is also a changing selection of ceviches—the newest is the Ceviche de Langosta—tender, sweet lobster tossed with an enlivening mix of lemon juice, mustard, sesame oil, cilantro, cucumber and orange peel. But equally wonderful is the CEVICHE MIXTO: shrimp, calamari, scallops marinated in lime juice, cilantro, red onions, and avocado
For main courses, the new poultry dish, Pato con Salsa de Tamarindo, is a revelation: tamarind-glazed duck leg confit with a complement of mashed sweet plantains, sautéed spinach and oyster mushrooms. Really elegant and recommend. New to the seafood section is Salmon, a wonderful blend of textures: pan-seared with a caramelized crust, topped with tender shrimp, with creamy lobster sauce and coconut rice. The traditional Ropa Vieja, shredded skirt steak braised in salsa criolla, peppers, onions and tomatoes, is a classic favorite, but the Vaca Frita, pan-fried skirt steak with garlic mojo, soy sauce, onions, parsley and lime, is a house specialty, a traditional Cuban dish rarely seen on menus in NYC. For Beatriz’s homage to Spain, paellas include Paella Vallenciana, prepared with saffron rice, baby back ribs, monkfish, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, peppers, string beans and peas, as well as seafood and vegetarian versions.
For something really special, go for the amazing RABO ENCENDIDO: tender braised oxtail, in tomato and red wine, kissed by sweet plantain, and succulent rice and beans. Here’s a dish that brings Cuban cosine into the world-class arena.
The luscious desserts include an ethereal Flan de Leche, custard with caramel sauce and fresh berries that somehow manages to be light and rich at the same time, as well as the sweet treat of Empandadita de Guayaba, guava and cream cheese filled turnovers, served with ice cream and raspberry sauce.
At lunchtime, you’ll also find traditional sandwiches such as the classic favorite, the Cubano, roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, pressed and toasted until crispy on crusty bread. Other tasty choices include Pan con Todo, pan-fried shredded skirt steak sandwich with sautéed onions, arugula, tetilla cheese and garlic mayo, and the Miramar, fried scallops, romaine lettuce, tomato, chipotle mayo and garlic mojo on toasted Cuban bread.
Brunch also features many of the savory staples as well as Cuban takes on traditional brunch dishes, such as Cuba Libre Torrejas, cream cheese and guava French toast; Tortilla Cubana, an omelette with Spanish chorizo, manchego cheese and spinach; and Benedict Habaneros, two poached eggs, sweet plantain quinoa cake, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. Brunch also features all the Mimosas, Sparkling Mojitos, Sangria, Cuba Bloody Marys or Capirinhas you would like during a period of one and a half hours.
The cocktails, of course, are a key element in transporting guests to Old Havana. The list is composed by veteran head bartender Eduardo Tavares (his prior experience was at Victor’s Café 52), and he takes the time to do it right, muddling the lime, mint and sugar for the 45 seconds required for a proper mojito, and preparing purees and infusions in house. Summer specials in honor of the 10th Anniversary include the Frozen Mojito, all the fresh ingredients of the classic mojito—in a refreshing, frothy-thick iced version, and the Pasion Picante, built with Don Diego reposado tequila, passion fruit, mango puree, fresh lime juice, muddled cilantro and a kick of jalapeno. In addition to the classic mojito, Tavares also mixes up an incredible tropical mojito in a range of fruit flavors. A favorite is jackfruit, refreshing, creamy, tangy and not too sweet. Other special mojitos include Mojito 23, smooth, dark and rich with Zacapa 23-year-old rum. The Hemingway is prepared with house-infused ginger rum, muddled mint, fresh limes and Cava. Not to be missed is the Daiquiri de Cuba, a beautiful frozen confection built with Santa Teresa Claro rum, lime and strawberries. Wines hail from Portugal, Chile, Argentina and Spain—a great match for the Cuban, Latin and Spanish flavors of the food.
Like fine rum, this Cuba restaurant improves with age. Service is friendly and the reception by the attractive young woman at the reception is welcoming. (And don’t forget to checkout those cigars).
Copyright 2014 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.