Sherman's Food Adventures: Havana

Havana

Ever since our recent trip to Miami (been there a few times before though), it got me thinking about the lack of Cuban food in these parts.  Wait, is there technically only one place where we can get "Cuban" food in the GVRD?  Yes, that place is Havana located on the Drive.  Much like ICBC, they have the market cornered and other than hopping on a plane heading Southeast for 6 hours, there is no other option.  So nearly 7 years from my last foray, we decided to hit up Havana after play softball at nearby Strathcona Park.

As the food came out pretty much all at the same time, we had to do our version of Tetris to fit everything onto the table.  I attacked the Tostones with chipotle mayo first.  These were quite good as they were crispy and sliced just thin enough.  They were of a good size with very few broken pieces. Surprisingly, they were comparable to the ones I've had in Miami.  Next, I sampled the Tostados with house made mesa sauce, feta cheese and chorizo sausage.  Light, crunchy and not overloaded with toppings (would make it wet and soggy otherwise), we didn't mind this dish.  The mildly spiced mesa sauce was amped by the chorizo.

Onto Bear's favourite, we had the Fresh Baked Corn Bread with smoked chili butter.  This was also quite the pleasant surprise as it was toasty on all surfaces due to the light sear on the grill.  By no means was it dry though as there was a certain moistness to the inside.  I thought the butter was nicely understated in its smokiness that it didn't overwhelm the sweet corn taste.  We weren't overly impressed with the Albacore Tuna Crudo with garlic, lemon and jalepeno with crispy tortilla chips though.  Not sure if the artistic plating really worked as there was too much blank space on the plate.  Moving past that, the actual crudo was chunky and rather lifeless.  The promise of garlic, lemon and jalapeno did not come to fruition.

Onto some bigger items, we had the Paella with West Coast mussels, prawns, house made chorizo sausage, peppers, onions, tomatoes, saffron, rice, coconut milk and Pernod. Okay, let's get this out of the way first - as you can clearly see, this was not really a "Paella".  Hence, there was no rice crust and furthermore, the dish resembled more of a risotto (due to the creaminess) than a paella.  Flavourwise, the dish was the beneficiary of garlic, spice and a understated richness.  Deceptively filling, the Ropa Veija (Braised Beef on Cuban rice) was meaty and sufficiently moist.  The flavours were understated with hits of green and red peppers throughout.

Despite the absence of a Cuban sandwich on the menu, we went for the next best thing in the Media Noche with spicy BBQ sauce.  Consisting of roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, house made spicy BBQ sauce, chipotle mayo and pickles, this was a decent sandwich.  There was a good amount of tender pork that was spiked with a lingering spicy BBQ sauce.  What was most memorable about the dish was actually the side of Parmesan Fries.  These were crispy, light and full of salty, cheesy flavour.  One of our favourite items was the Fried Chicken featuring a crispy chicken breast, sour cream & onion mash, coconut gravy, asparagus and corn.  Considering that the chicken was white meat, they did a great job in keeping it moist.  The coconut gravy was aromatic and rich while the veggies were crunchy and sweet.

For dessert, we shared the Caramel Bread Pudding with praline ice cream.  Sadly, this was dud as the pudding was far too dry and lacking in caramel sauce.  It wasn't overly sweet as a result, but the texture was not appealing.  Really, this was an unfortunate ending to a relatively enjoyable meal.  Sure, it ain't real Cuban food, but taken for what it is, there were not many other complaints other than the dessert.

The Good:
- Generally well-executed food
- Nice vibe
- We got attentive service

The Bad:
- On the pricier side
- Not true Cuban food, if you haven't noticed

Havana Restaurant & Gallery on Urbanspoon

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