Chef Hector Santiago not only sports a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, he was also a contestant on Bravo's Top Chef Las Vegas. A Puerto Rico native, Santiago inflects the traditional share plate with Latin American and contemporary American accents.
Helmed by Cuban-born owner Elizardo Sanz, Palomilla's House prepares an extensive menu of authentic Cuban dishes. The signature house palomilla delivers Cuban culinary tradition in the form of a seasoned tenderloin steak ($15.95). A plethora of oceanic fare includes shrimp ($14.95) sautéed in your choice of flavor baths, including a specialty creole sauce or a symphony of olive oil, garlic, wine, and bell peppers. Chefs dedicated to the art of Cuban cooking lovingly fry a whole red snapper before dressing it in rice, beans, and plantains and sending it off to waiting tables ($17.95). Poultry options include the chicken milanesa—a breaded and fried filet draped with ham, melted mozzarella, and marinara sauce ($13.95).
With churrasco steaks, grilled red-snapper fillets, and shredded flank steaks rubbed with Cuban spices, it's hard to tell which dish earned Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill the tile of Best Cuban fare in 2010 and 2011 from the readers of Creative Loafing Atlanta. It could have been owner Rey Regalado’s recipe for pork marinade passed on from his father. Brought to America in a harrowing tale of escape from oppression, the signature sauce now trickles beneath layers of smoked pork, ham, swiss cheese, and dill pickles on the cuban sandwich or traditional masitas de puerco made with tender cubed pork. Selecting from a stash of family recipes, chefs fill plates with bold flavors and cap meals with such sweet treats as coconut flan and rice pudding. As the sun falls out of the sky on Fridays and Saturdays, live salsa music populates the dining room with toe-tapping beats and digestion-aiding rhythms.
Wafting aromas of sizzling seafood usher diners into Mambo Jambo's colorful and lively dining room. Kick off an evening of harmonized chewing with an appetizing goat-cheese salad, an emerald ensemble of baby lettuce and romaine quenched with a flavorful ambrosia of key-lime vinaigrette and balsamic dressing and topped with tumbling boulders of honey-roasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese. After patrons have fully plundered herbaceous platters, a member of Mambo Jambo's friendly wait staff interrupts dialogues of gratuitous lip-smacking with a main course of paella de mariscos. Through the paella's copious haystack of saffron-infused rice, diners can dig for a plethora of seafaring savories, eliciting forkfuls of chewy calamari and disrupting a group of shrimp, scallops, and clams as it drafts a position on how central nervous systems are overrated. With today's second option, diners can assuage digestion with a sweet glass of sangria or a minty mojito.
Today’s Groupon is muddled with tropical taste, splashed with foreign flavors, and garnished with Latin locomotion. For $20, you get $40 worth of scrumptious Cuban cuisine at Mojito, a fine-dining restaurant tucked inside the Hotel Midtown. Follow @Groupon_Says on Twitter.