In the kitchen of Bella Cuba Restaurant, flames slowly sauté and season traditional Cuban dishes. Chefs season root vegetables with mojo—a sauce made from hot olive oil, lemon juice, raw onions, garlic, and cumin—before sautéing accompanying meats in citrus marinades. The smells of the sizzling pork steaks, meat pies, and yellow tail snapper sizzling in a coconut sauce infuse the whole restaurant with the smells of Cuba, helped along by the smoke of handcrafted cigars plucked from the dining room’s humidor. After a dessert of super-moist tres leches cake, guests can sip on Cuba libres and classic Cuban mojitos that, much like a splash in a neighbor’s bird bath, give relief on a balmy day.
Las Culebrinas Restaurant’s tapas-inspired yet generously portioned plates enrapture patrons with a tantalizing tour of Cuban delicacies. Pack on protein with meat and pork dishes such as the Cuban–style grilled top-sirloin steak ($12.95) or fried pork chunks seductively laid out in a bed of avocado sauce ($10.50). Deep-sea diners can submerge palates in seafood and fish dishes including the lobster, shrimp, scallop, fish, and mussels in marinara sauce ($26.95) or baked filet of dolphin, sprinkled with chunks of spanish sausage and creole-sauced ham ($17.50). Poultry entrees such as the breaded chicken breast, topped with tomato sauce and melted swiss cheese ($11.50), command the attention of traditionalist taste buds, and specialties including frog legs slathered in garlic sauce ($19.95) satiate the appetites of well-traveled eaters or sedentary time-travelers.
Palomilla Grill has dished out its eponymous steaks and a range of other Cuban-style classics for nearly four decades. Ten varieties of palomillas, each made from top loin and tenderloin, include the traditional palomilla with sweet plantains and the Hurricanes palomilla, whose accompanying vegetable puree is served inside a sandbag. The menu also includes personal-sized paellas, grilled mahi-mahi, and slow-roasted baby pig shanks.
Owner Melissa Vias originally unveiled Malanga Café not only to share the exotic dishes crafted from her meticulous collection of Cuban recipes, but to transport diners to the music- and amusement-filled atmosphere of Cuba itself. Head chef Haydee Porras blends traditional ingredients to forge from scratch items such as crispy croquettes, steaming tamales, and a traditional suckling pig that smokes and crackles as it rotates in its sweltering roaster. Meanwhile, succulent morsels of shredded pork nestle into pillowy baguettes to craft the pan con lechon, whose popular recipe arrived from Santiago de Cuba via Vias's husband. Postmeal, patrons can amuse other senses with games of Cubilete or the rhythms of a live band, then sign a giant mural awash with famous Cuban sayings to personalize a part of history and provide an effective alibi against sushi-eating accusations.
When working in the kitchen at Savor crafting Cuban fare, chef Ariel Alvarez draws on culinary training in Havana and years of restaurant experience, including time at El Floridita, where he served former president Jimmy Carter, Giorgio Armani, and Naomi Campbell. He passes between cooks, who chop fish for ceviche and simmer cauldrons of paella, while forging a menu that adds hints of European cuisine to traditional Cuban recipes. Servers deliver platters of crab-stuffed plantains and oxtail cooked with wine and fresh herbs past photos of Cuba that ornament the walls alongside chalkboards scrawled with the daily specials.