The most famous paladar in Cuba owes its renown in equal parts to the wonderful ambience, excellent cuisine, and the starring role it played in several scenes in the Cuban blockbuster film Fresa y chocolate.
The three small rooms of this converted apartment are reached by climbing three stories of steep, rundown, and poorly lit stairs. The signed celebrity headshots let you see the stars in whose steps you have just followed.
I would recommend going for lunch or late lunch during daylight as the neighberhood - Centro Habana is slightly dodgy.
Favorite Dish: We had some delicious tuna and some sea food risotto, both of them being probably the best dishes that we had in Cuba.
Cuba is still one of the few remaining outposts of Communism in the world, but in line with other communist states the goverment has begun to allow limited amounts of public enterprise. A paralel case would be Vietnam a few years back and China a few more years back when it first began it's economic reforms.
One area that enterprise has been allowed to flourish small restaurants based in people's homes. The operators pay a fee to the government for the right to have up to eight tables. (which makes sure the business remains quite snall)
The food is often better than in the official restaurants, and the prices are much better. (about half)
Service can be extremely variable, as although invariably friendly, they are usually cooking from very limited facilities (i.e the home Kitchen)
The other problem is how to find them. On the more major roads they are quite obvious as they front onto the road bt sometime you see signs to one's hidden away in backstreets that can be nigh on impossible to seek out.
'Restaurants' run from home or food at your hosts' home is the only way. They may not have everything nor the licence to serve everything, but you will not get food better than this.
The official restaurants are expensive, have bad food and bad service. I went to one place that did not even leave our napkins on our table, but instead gave us half tissues...
Favorite Dish: Lobsters are fresh and gorgeous, but not available in government restaurants.
This restaurant was based out of a home (called paladars) but you find great but cheap food at these locations. This restaurant had been exposed to some international pop culture. It had been visited by Matt Dillon, Gloria Estafan and many Caribbean and South American entertainers. It had been written about in The New York Times (2001) as well as the Cigar magazine and many more Caribbean and South American magazines and newspapers.
I was in Havana for four days and ate at this location 3 nights of those days.
I had the snapper, Filet Mignon and Chicken Cordon Bleu . All we're amazing choices. The steak was made to my preference, and the Chicken was incredible and new to me.
Overall, the food was amazing, the service was genuine, the owner was entertaining and the atmosphere was beautiful in the outdoor patio style seating with turtles floating in the mini water fall.
Favorite Dish: I can't decide between the Chicken and the Steak but they were both amazing.
It was really interesting seeing how architecture evolves due to the climate. If you go into restaurants in Cuba, you'll immediately notice the wide open courtyards, big windows and tall shades. In the early afternoon, it's usually very warm outside, and big open courtyards promote big breezes. The restaurant I was in had one of these open courtyard styles.
Favorite Dish: You can't really get beef in Cuba, due to the trade restrictions, so you'll either be eating pork or chicken if you eat meat. Beans are a staple of the Cuban people as well.
I had a really tasty chicken plate, complete with beans and rice.
This second story restaurant in an opulent Vedado colonial mansion is one of Havana's top paledars. Prices are excellent, atmosphere a romantic reminder of times past. Service is friendly but slow, and the food good. Call ahead; when we stopped by in July 2000, it was being renovated.
Favorite Dish: The seafood is good
An excellent Italian private restaurant near the Neptuno and Comodoro hotels in Miramar features extra-fresh fish, grilled meats and a selection of pastas. An inviting garden patio and full bar contribute to an enjoyable experience.
This is a great place to eat lunch or dinner. Part of a large Spanish colonial style house built in 1937, its green, lush garden, full of ferns and small palms, is bliss in the warm, humid Cuban weather. The food is hearty and flavorful, including such starters as roasted chickpeas mixed with pieces of ham, sausage and tomatoes, and a simple bruschetta topped with tuna. The pork loin rolled and stuffed with dates, peanuts, ham and sausage was delicious although extremely filling. Lilliam even offers a nice selection of wine from Spain's reliable producer Torres.
Paladar Torresson is on the second floor of a building at the East end of Malecon, overlooking the sea front. The tables are actually on the balcony and the ones near the edge offer a superb view.
Favorite Dish: The fish dish is usually nice.
The film "Fresa y Chocolate" was partly shot at this place. Now is a trendy restaurant, although still inexpensive (the specialty of the house is "cherna caimanero" or red snapper. The house walls show many Hollywood stars who have dined here, including Jack Nicholson. It's open 7:00 p.m. to midnight; reservations are recommended.
Favorite Dish: I like everything they cook. My favority dish is barbecue fish with salad and wine.
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