Sherman's Food Adventures: Havana


Chatting with Kim (I'm Only Here for the Food!) on Saturday, I noticed that I rarely eat Latin food. The times I've been to the Caribbean, I regret I haven't tried more of it. I guess the lack of Latin American food in the GVRD is one reason I don't eat it enough. But the main reason is probably that I do not know where to find "good" Latin American food. Well, Kim is a good resource; maybe I should just go eat out with him more often. However, I was on a mission today, I was going to eat Latin food! So Viv and I headed over to Dona Cata for some of their famous tacos. But to our dismay, it is closed on Mondays. Undeterred, we headed over to Commercial Drive in search of Latin food. As we cruised down the Drive, we noticed that many of the Latin restaurants were closed as well. Was this a coincidence? I'm not sure, but alas, we finally ended up at Havana near the North end of the Drive. Viv's been to Havana before and she liked it, so we parked and headed over.

I've walked past Havana many times admiring their awesome patio; but just have never walked in. Let me say, walking into the restaurant brought me back to Miami, particularly South Beach. The decor and ambiance took me on a vacation without leaving home. One thing struck me while I was perusing the menu: it's not cheap here. Now I'm not saying that the prices were expensive; but for what we were getting it wasn't inexpensive. Mind you, the dinner menu seems like a better value, which is usually the reverse in most restaurants.

We decided to start with the Tostones, otherwise known as plantain chips. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was pretty full, so it will probably explain why it took 35 minutes for the chips to arrive. However, that's pretty long for an appetizer. Well, at least they were worth the wait. The chips were really crispy and fried just enough to give it a very nice colour. The accompanying red pepper aioli and green chili dip was fabulous. There was just enough heat and flavour to compliment the chips.

After we finished the chips, almost another 20 minutes passed before we got our mains. Suffice to say, I don't care how busy the restaurant was. If I do not get all my food within 30 minutes during lunch, it's too long. Viv had ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich and at first, I was wondering what's so special about it. Well, upon closer inspection; in addition to the fried chicken, there was pickled cabbage, green chili mojo and jerk mayo. All the flavours really worked in this sandwich. You got spicy from the chilis, tartness from the cabbage and salty-sweet from the mayo. For myself, I chose the Media Noche which is supposed to be a smaller version of the Cuban sandwich. However, in this case, the main deviation from the traditional sandwich was the bread. It was served on a Ciabatta and was not pressed. Despite this fact, I enjoyed the sandwich. The combination of ham (Black Forest in this case), roast pork, Swiss cheese and pickles was very tasty. Viv remarked that the bun probably detracted from the sandwich.

Despite the painfully long wait for our food, we enjoyed our visit to Havana. It helped that we weren't in a rush. We were just soaking up the nice weather and atmosphere. Again, the only thing that bothered me was that each of our sandwiches were $14.00 each. Hardly expensive; but it just seemed like we didn't eat $14.00 worth of food (operating costs and raw materials withstanding). However, the 4-course dinner for $25 seems like a fabulous deal, maybe I'll need to try that someday.

The Good:
- Really nice decor and atmosphere
- Nice patio
- Something a bit different

The Bad:
- Really sloooow kitchen (could be this time only?)
- A bit pricey for what you get
- As always, parking is hard to find

Havana Cafe on Urbanspoon


KimHo said...

You missed El Caracol, which is a couple of block south of Doña Cata!

Toston ought to be more of a Puerto Rican thing: in Panama, and nearby Central American countries, as far as I know, we will just call it platano frito (fried plantain); if the plantain is ripe, it is called tajadas, while if it is green plantain in chunks fried, smashed and refried is called patacón. I am glad you liked it!

As for the sandwiches, the pickled cabbage is encurtido, as far as I know, it is usually served in Salvadorean cuisine. Media Noche (literally "mid-night") looks really disappointing, as the regular recipe does NOT call for ham. To me, it looks they are being cheap and filling it with ham rather than make it completely with roasted pork. Even if they call it Cuban sandwich, Black Forest ham is not used due to its saltiness. The ones I have had in the past, it was usually made with honey ham. And where is the swiss cheese??? However, the fact it did not hit the griddle/pressed, well, it is better if they will call it a ham and pork sandwich...

But at least you gave me a reason to give it a try, hehehehe.

Sherman Chan said...

Yes, I passed that place yesterday... (I went to Dona Cata yesterday). Yes, I'm on a Latin food mission... Yes, the black forest ham sucked. I've had a real Cuban sandwich before and the one I ate was not a Cuban sandwich. There is Swiss cheese and pickles underneath the ham. The bread sucked too, not the right kind. Viv's sandwich was good though. Hey, you must take me out to eat some real Latin food my friend. You are the expert here!

KimHo said...

I am not expert in Latin American food, I know quite well about the food I had. Think of finding somebody who is an expert in Canadian food... However, that does not mean I can't enjoy some other Latin American ones!

Anonymous said...

Yea you missed El Caracol...or even Rinconcinto!

So weird, I was at Havana today, (spent a long while on the Drive today), but just for some sangria. Yums. The stuff did look quite pricy.

@ Kim: hmmm....patacons....yum.

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