Sneak peeking in Cuba had kept me busy last week. I was unable to post, because there was little time to write and internet access was limited. I left ten days ago looking forward to this long-wished reunion with best friends, who have been living in Havana for three years now. Thanks to them, I was able to spend each day there in a unique and unforgettable way. I came back a few days ago, and I am still dealing with all what I have seen, heard, and felt, definitively a life-enriching experience.
If you are interested in reading how Cuba is facing the current flow of tourists, check this article: ‘To Beat the Rush, Americans Rush to Cuba, Overloading Services’, by Frances Robles.
But this blog is all about food! I can tell you that, although Cuba is not a foodie destination per se, I was able to taste from simple, everyman’s kitchen to more elaborated cuisine and drinks.
Having rum its origin in the Caribbean, let’s start this time with the Cuban, iconic cocktails, namely mojitos and daiquiris.
I tasted mainly mojitos and the best ones for me were those at Restaurante Italiano Roma, prepared by Romi. He made it clear that you need to use spearmint (hierbabuena) and not any other kind of mint!
and at Café Bohemia; where I found them perfect as well.
Both places have a very good kitchen; I am telling you more about their food later on.
I tried the daiquiris in two legendary venues and must-see places if you are in La Habana:
The first one was at Hotel Nacional de Cuba (1930), a historic 5*hotel on the seafront; that was my welcome drink after the ten-hour flight!
Before continuing , I recommend you to read ‘The New Cuba: Casa Particular and Paladar’
Café Bohemia, in the secluded courtyard of a historic house (1730) at Plaza Vieja (Old Square), invites you to chill out while exploring Habana Vieja (Old Havana).
Restaurante Italiano Roma is located in the nice neighborhood of Miramar. Alberto and Mari, the hosts, cordially welcomed us in their neat paladar. Mari is the chef and prepares delicious, Italian specialties. Do not expect to get pizza here.
Mixed Salad – A real treat in a country where fresh products are so hard to find!
La Corte del Príncipe, another Italian in Miramar. Everything was fresh and delicious:
El Litoral, directly on the seafront, offers a nice cold appetizer buffet and is specialized in fish and seafood dishes. Service was attentive.
Santy Pescador, located in Jamainitas (Marina Hemingway), is a restaurant with two rustic, wooden terraces, that serves good Japanese and Mediterranean food. It is a bit hard to find, but its peculiar location is worth a visit.
The Caribbean has the nicest beaches in the world, and Cuba is certainly not an exception. Just 30 min (25 km) from La Habana, we found what we considered paradise on earth: Playa Santa Maria (Playas del Este). Judge by yourself:
After the relaxing hours in ‘paradise’, we tried the Ranchón Don Pepe, just next to the beach parking lot and bus stop. We ordered the daily catch and were delighted with the freshness of the grilled fish.
With a typically Cuban side dish: rice, sweet potato chips, cabbage, cucumber and green beens.
Grilled Shrimps … with the same side dish!
• From the Parque Central (downtown Habana Vieja), you can take the blue bus with A/C to Playas del Este. The round-trip ticket costs 5 CUC (approx. USD5). Same bus stop as the hop-on hop-off.
I also want to include simple but tasty meals I was able to try during my short stay in Cuba:
The two local beers:
Of course, coffee … This time served with a sugar cane stick to be dipped in the coffee!