Monday, January 24, 2011

Restaurant Week Washington DC 2011 - Cuba Libre

Born from a collision of America and Spain, the Cuba Libre was concocted when Coke, rum and a lime wedge was crafted by a Havana bartender just after Cuba was freed. CUBA LIBRE!!! (Freedom for Cuba) was the chant. Now whether that was the inspiration for the restaurant or not, I am not sure. But the restaurant does ignite an en fuego of liberating citrus-rich and inspired flavors.

Coming in from 20 degrees and whipping winds I melted into the perked Palm trees, Latin serenade and vibrant mosaic stain glass windows. True attention to ambiance will be your first impression as you scan the panoramic views.

We stumbled upon a Restaurant Week brunch menu this Saturday afternoon. What a treat! I happen to love brunch and I was equally eager to see selections they proposed.

Still on a quest to find a quality preparation of duck during Restaurant Week I contemplated the pato ahumado (house cured duck). But with a suggestion from our knowledgeable waiter Evan, I selected guacamole cubano and tostones (twice fried green plantains).

Dare Cube Libre challenge the best guacamole in town literally blocks away at Rosa Mexicano? Oh yes they did! The winner? Both! The guacamole cubano is truly unique. Fresh chunks of pineapple stun a vibrant mound of traditional guacamole which offers a great spin on the conventional.


Next up pulpo con berenjenas or truffle and citrus grilled baby octopus and escabeche de hongos, basically a mushroom salad.
I fell in love with octopus last year when I visted Tokyo. Definitely a delicacy it is one of those dishes you must consume right away. Generous seasoning accentuate the octopus and team nicely with the citrus melody. I enjoyed every bite.
Truly inspired by their regular menu I ordered an additional tapa: the yuka frita. And as if the Food God's personally selected it, I was blessed with a brilliant selection. Perfection with starch has been reached: lightly- fried textured on the outside and pillowy clouds of yuka inside! After visiting the famous FIET PALELS in Antwerp, Belgium, I thought I would never find anything greater than a Belgium fry, until now. As if it needed a partner,  they team the yuka with a cilantro-caper aioli sauce, a great development to the taste. They were the hands-down star of the meal.
We followed that with the torreja (french toast) and pollo frito con panqueques which are cornmeal pancakes with sliced chicken and a mango butter.

I am a sucker for challah bread french toast. The torreja delivers a interesting rendition that crusts the challah in crushed nut combination of almonds and walnuts, then stuffs it with a frangelico mascarpone cheese and drizzles a light honey over the top with a flourish of sliced strawberries. The fact that I did not request syrup reveals my love of the dish on its own.

Dessert was in the true Havana style: tocino del cielo, a petite cuban flan and arroz con leche, a classic cuban rice pudding. Personally I am not a true fan of coconut so I have to separate my taste buds from the juror and judge objectively.
The flans has heavenly texture and the rice pudding has a consistency that fairs well with your mouth. I don't recall Cuba ever being known for dessert, so the simplistic presentation is understandable.

With an arm's length list of signature mojitos (like the beet and basil I had..yum), panama-outfitted waitstaff attentive and helpful you are sure to remember the visit. Not bad recien llegado....tres tenedor up!!

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love YUCA! That octopus looks good, I wanna try that.I tried the Lychee Mojito it was ok but Mojitos in general are not one of my favorites. I love coconut but not a fan of flan.