Though its dining room is in the heart of Yonkers, La Bella Havana's food transports diners straight to Cuba with the chefs' homestyle Caribbean cooking. Drawing equal inspiration from the land and sea, hearty comfort foods include sauteed chorizo with fried plantain chips, empanadas with a variety of fillings, and massive servings of paella that the New York Times hailed as "the real deal: stuffed with seafood, chorizo and chicken, full of flavor and cooked to perfection." The drink menu similarly embraces its Cuban roots with hand-blended mojitos and other potent tropical cocktails.
But Cuba's presence inside the restaurant also goes beyond the edibles to its island-inspired decor. The walls give the appearance of rustic, exposed brickwork peeking through plaster and a glance upward yields ceiling fans and their distinctively leaf-shaped blades. Even the bar area is shaded by a thatched straw canopy, which shields the bartenders from the imported Cuban sunshine.
Mambo Tea House’s combination of cuisine and teas stems from the cultural backgrounds of its married co-owners, who were profiled in (201) magazine. Louis Nuñez, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, supplied many of the restaurant's recipes and oversees Mambo's cuisine along with his head chef. Though the restaurant specializes in authentic Cuban food, its Latin-based eats—such as paella, skirt steak, and mofongo—borrow from traditional Argentinian, Puerto Rican, Spanish, and Dominican cooking.
Elsewhere in the eatery, CiCi Chan-Nuñez curates more than 40 loose-leaf teas imported from countries such as China, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. The BYOB facility also supplies diners with mixes to convert their wines into sangria and mojitos.
Up to 60 guests can feast in the dining room, which includes bamboo-wood floors and Cuban-cigar wallpapers. Mambo Tea House hosts live Cuban music every other Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., so visitors can dance off dinner or recite their new poem without worrying that anyone will be able to hear them.
Rebecca's menu renders grumbling bellies speechless with steak- and seafood-based entrees served in softly lit rooms that "whisper romance" according to Susan Leigh Sherrill of Dining 201. The eatery's unique take on Cuban and Caribbean fare shines through in a grilled double-cut pork chop slathered like a love note to a scarecrow with roasted corn salsa. The espresso crème brûlée, a delicacy crafted from the chef's personal recipe, embellishes white linens indoors or tables strewn about the garden. Patrons swish their own libations while a cherubim fountain gurgles rock ballads to the surrounding flora-laced stone face.
Palm-leaf fan blades send lazy breezes through the dining room at Dos Cubanos, where massive seascape murals and decorative clotheslines nod to the beauty and rusticity of Old Havana. Like the decor, Dos Cubanos' culinary offerings stay loyal to the eatery's Cuban roots, showcasing traditional selections such as ropa vieja—a shredded, twice-cooked flank steak glazed in criollo sauce—and plating entrees with black beans, white rice, and sweet plantains. The menu also encompasses an assortment of tapas, including empanadas and ham-and-swiss croquettes, that allow diners to share their food.
San Juan Express aims to take taste buds on a tour of Puerto Rico's diverse flavorscape. The menu delivers authentic cuisine from around the famous island—from its well-trod beaches to its rural tropical jungles. Servers bustle about behind the counter, ladling out portions of oxtail stew, juicy slices of beefsteak, slow-roasted garlic pork, and crispy fried shrimp from a row of freshly made dishes. They also whip up a variety of traditional mofongos, topping mashed plantains with shrimp and pork. For dessert, the staffers dole out custard flan and moist tres leches cake.