from what i've been told, cafe havana used to be more of downscale place, where $10 would most likely get you a platter of red beans, rice, and plantains, maybe a bit of chicken or something, and maybe a beer. perhaps enough for two people on the plate. there were not so many tables available, and the place was a bit dingy.
now for something completely different, i guess.
here, the atmosphere strives for upscale, velvet curtains, ornate lighting fixtures and all. someone thought they had a dress code when they opened, a very formal one. now, however, if you look a bit more closely, the tables are a bit chipped, some of the booths have cracked plastic. that kind of makes me wonder with entree prices starting at $12 or so, why they don't spend a bit more on upkeep. service was an odd mix of speedy water glass refills and very slow getting around to take orders/see if we needed anything. maybe as there seemed to be one server, and the rest seemed to be assistants.
random odd aside about the setting- the restrooms had a sink in the stall, then other sinks in the main bit. hard to tell which restroom to use, kinda. i can see drunk folks getting way mixed up over which cubist-looking painting to choose (there's no words on the stall).
the prices are mostly why i opted for just a main course. i went with a black beans, rice, and chicken dish with a cilantro salsa. it was one of those dishes that if you just take a forkful straight on, it's not impressive, but after mixing it together becomes something more than the sum of it's parts. very nice, but i don't know if it's really a worth the $14 cost with just those ingredients. as for the bread we got with the meal, itwasn't impressive, but the butter was.
maybe the mejillones- quite a few mussels on a bed of rice with a nice sauce, was worth the price (i think those were maybe $16- please correct me on the pricing if i'm wrong, btw). those were better than what i had (not surprisingly). the tostones they ordered to start with were crisp on the outside, with the mushy inside that makes the best fried foods worth it. it came with a side of what seemed to be a cuban take on remoulade. you get a generous amount of the tostones.
the best meal was two starters, though. the first course was a carmelized plantain dish that would not have been out of place as a dessert, if you threw in a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and some cinnamon, maybe a hit of whipped cream. another generous amount of food. the lobster cake, though high priced for an appetizer at $14 or so was the winning dish of the evening. the lobster cake (like a crab cake, only different) is large, and comes with a fried crispy tortilla that has a mild cheese on it. lovely. it's big enough for a meal on it's own, rather just as an app. the cake would make a lovely benedict.
since the dessert menu didn't have the tres leches cake that other reviews rave about and neither of the two options appealed, dessert cocktails were had. they have an interesting list of cocktails that go with the restaurant theme, like the cuban martini, and a key lime martini (well, a mock one, as there's no key lime juice in it, so hey, weird to call it that)... all tropical and such, but not as fruity/girly as you'd think- these are made very strong.
i am not so sure i'd rush to eat here again, though it was interesting to try once. the food was quite good, and nothing was that bad or anything. it's just not my kind of place, i guess. maybe it's the formality imposed on the place.
© the bent sun as risen