If you visit Havana, Cuba it’s crucial to know exactly where to eat. That’s because there are no concierges for directions, no Yelp service to read reviews and no signs advertising the restaurant’s best features.
In fact, until recently there were no options for a high-end meal at all. But that’s all changing.
Cuba is opening up to Cuban entrepreneurs…and the best way to see it is through dining. If you’re making the trip then you should visit these restaurants…
La Fontana in the Miramar district was the first high-end restaurant in Havana. There’s no sign but they do valet so you’ll notice it on the corner if you’re looking. You’ll see a fountain when you enter (La Fontana means “the fountain”). But watch your step, most of the restaurant is a giant coy pond and you walk on stones as you pass through. The food is great and sharing appetizers is the way to eat there. I went for an octopus dish served in an onion and red pepper sauce, a clay bowl of fried chickpeas infused with pork chorizos and a perfectly sliced beef carpaccio with capers and parmesan cheese.
El Cocinero is also in Miramar around Calle 11 and Calle 26. There’s a round smoke stack like you’d see in an old power plant. That’s the restaurant. And if you climb into the smoke stack you’ll see it’s been turned into a private dining area that’s very interesting. The food is great and waitresses bring trays of cigars to the table. Feel free to smoke a Montecristo #2 during dinner…and pay 10 pesos convertible for it. That’s about a third of what you’d pay in Canada or Mexico for the same smoke. Here I ate a combination of mixed meat skewers and chicken skewers with bacon and pineapple.
Rio Mar, located at the ground floor of a mid-century apartment building where 3rd avenue dead ends into an area known as La Puntilla (meaning “the tip”), is run by an entrepreneur who splits her time between Havana and Miami.
The food is fantastic and lunchtime is definitely the time to go, especially if you want to enjoy some cool sea breezes while sipping a mojito. Here I started with a seafood carpaccio in basil and pineapple vinaigrette and ended it with a very nice grilled lobster dish with cilantro leaves and lemon zest.
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