I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.
Today I am covering Cuba!
Cuba is one of the only countries I have actually been to, having gone on vacation in Cuba the last couple of years. Evan and I are going again this year, too. It has a certain something that keeps bringing us back. However, most of my time in Cuba was spent on the resort and I have not seen (or eaten) a lot of “real Cuba”, so I am not exactly an expert. Ideally I would have convinced someone local to invite me over for dinner (Julio, I am looking at you), but unfortunately that did not happen (next time?). I did have a few real Cuban meals though (this, for example), so I do have some idea of authentic food there.
Evan and I were excited to eat Cuba mainly to feel like we were in Cuba again and not in our current below freezing temperatures.
It didn’t really work but it was still a good eating adventure.
Toronto has a few Cuban restaurants and I have heard really good things about La Cubana, with two locations, Ossington and Roncesvalles Village. We headed to the one on Roncy, which is decorated like a 50’s style diner and that alone kind of reminded me of Cuba.
I liked it. I also liked that right in front of the bar is an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs do their thing.
Cuba is really big on chicken, pork, sandwiches (or medianoches), beans and rice. I would say those are the staples. Beans and rice are actually their national dish, called Moros y Cristianos. Medianoche is a type of sandwich that originated in Cuba, and named because they are served in Havana’s night clubs around midnight. Drunk people like sandwiches. I get it.
We started with a cerveza because this is how all our meals in Cuba started. The two beers in Cuba are Bucanero and Cristal, but La Cubana has custom brewed Cuban style Pilsner from Junction Craft Brewing.
And it tasted like Cuba! Not as much as rum and Coke does to me, but I still liked it.
We started with chips and fresh salsa, which included plantain chips (popular in Cuba).
Chips and salsa is always a good idea. The only negative thing I can say about that plate is it was over too quickly.
I feel like I would really enjoy a medianoche, it’s right up my alley, but I have been thinking about Cuban style pork with beans and rice lately… I couldn’t pass up the molasses roasted pork shoulder, which came with beans and rice, purple cabbage slaw, and tostones (twice fried plantain slices).
I loved everything. I thought my dish was really, really good. I’m sad I didn’t also eat a sandwich, but no regrets on my order. It felt like real Cuba to me.
Evan got the same, but with achiote roasted chicken instead of pork.
The flavour of his chicken was really good, however — and this was the only sore spot with our meal — the inside was cold. Like it had clearly been in the fridge and then reheated on the grill when he ordered it. Which is fine, I just wish we didn’t know that because it definitely takes away the illusion of everything being freshly prepared. I wouldn’t have known otherwise. We actually sent it back, which is a big rarity for us, but our server was awesome and brought him a new plate of (hot) chicken out quickly. No problems with his second one, and Evan enjoyed it. But it was too late — our meal had been tainted.
In my experience the coffee in Cuba is very, very good, so to complete our Cuban meals we went for the Cafe Cubano with dessert.
And dessert was donuts.
Because when I was in Cuba I ate a donut for breakfast every day. Yes, they were resort donuts, but I still needed to try these for old times sake. They actually tasted very similar to the churros found at our resort in Cayo Coco. We loved!
Traditional Cuban food is delicious and overall we had a delicious time… I just wish the minor accident hadn’t happened with Evan’s chicken because it tainted the experience just slightly. Although, that experience is consistent with Cuban resort food, so maybe it just makes it more authentic.
And now I can’t wait to go back to Cuba!