Restaurant Review: Cuba Libre

10 Nov

Guacomole and shrimp and roasted squash salad

Last Friday was my friend Lindsay’s birthday, and a big group of us went to a new restaurant in the Chinatown area, Cuba Libre, to celebrate.  I hadn’t heard of it before, but love the opportunity to try out new places that I wouldn’t usually go to, especially when I can justify going somewhere nice because “it’s insert-friend-here’s birthday!!! Clearly I should spend my grocery money for the week on one night out!”  I was even more excited to try Cuba Libre because Lindsay had mentioned mojitos multiple times in her email, and a quick look at the menu confirmed that not only did the food sound amazing, but yes, there are 14 different variations of mojito.

I was very lucky that when I got to the restaurant I found my friend Ingrid right away, because it was super crowded and very noisy by the front.  The atmosphere was actually very nice though, and once we were sitting down the noise wasn’t too overwhelming.  Cuba Libre had an obviously Cuban/generically ethnic theme, and had that fake outdoor-while-you’re-indoors thing going on that made me say to Ingrid immediately that I felt like I was in Disneyworld’s Mexico (which btw, also has very yummy food. And a boat ride).  Some people might not like the fake scenery, but to me comparing something to Disney is a very high compliment.

Former roomies at Cuba Libre

When we were finally seated at our massive table we were faced with the question of which of the 14 mojitos we would like to try.  One of our group had the neon pink beet and basil mojito, which was said to be excellent, but as I’m not a huge raw beet fan I went with a mango one.  Ingrid got the grilled pineapple mojito, which I will have to try next time I am there.  I also tried the classic mojito, which I actually preferred to the mango because it wasn’t as sweet and the mint taste was more promient.  Also luckily this wasn’t one of those places that puts so much mint into the drinks that you have to abandon it halfway through for fear of choking on excessive mint leaves.

Next came the food, and by the time we got anything to eat all of us were starving so it was very welcome.  The bread they gave us was little fried rounds of some sort of sweet bread, accompanied by a mango butter which I believe also had cinnamon in it.  Whatever it was, that stuff was seriously addictive, and I would have been pretty happy just eating lots of fried cinnamony bread all  night.  After much debating I settled on Lechon Asado for my main course, described as “slow roasted marinated pulled pork, classic sour orange mojo, Amarillo chile smashed yuca and black bean broth with vigoron slaw”.  I didn’t recognize half of the words in the description but the waiter said it sold out every night, which I always take as a good sign.  Ingrid got the Batata con Camarones (shrimp with roasted squash salad) and Guacamole Cubano (guacomole with pineapple and crispy plaintain), and I also tried the Yuca Frita and Croqueta de Jamon y Queso (Ham and Jack cheese croquettes).

My Lechon Asado

I don’t know that I’ve had Cuban food more than once or twice before, but based on this experience I will definitely be trying it again.  My pulled pork was tender and delicious, and the yuca was slightly spicy but balanced by the black bean broth and the slaw on top.  It was a large portion, but not overwhelmingly so, and I would order it again in a second.  The presentation of all the dishes was also very good, Ingrid’s guacamole was shaped with plantain chips on top, and mine was also all stacked in a very aesthetically pleasing way.  From what I heard everyone enjoyed their dishes, and the menu has quite a good range of seafood, chicken, and meat for actually pretty good value (mains were only about $20-25).  I would recommend this for a fun night out with friends, and I think next time I might order a few of the small plates to try as much as possible!

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2 Responses to “Restaurant Review: Cuba Libre”

  1. Jonny Recaldin November 10, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Your articles make for good reading girls, though you’ve made me seriously hungry – I’m going to go and put the spaghetti on the hob!

    Could do with a mojito too. It would make this essay go so much faster….

  2. Angie Glynn November 20, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    Roxie-I’ll have to take the fam and friends here when I’m home-this sounds a lot like the food we eat in the Dominican and I’ve become a HUGE fan of mojitos too! Bien Provecho! (enjoy!)

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