December 1, 2012
Havana Central, New York NY
Selección de Aperitivos Clásicos
Mofongo con Ropa Vieja
Bizcocho de Chocolate con Ron
After an exhausting first day of competition, the team went to Havana Central for dinner. The restaurant was huge and had such a great Cuban vibe to it. The bar was lively and the atmosphere casual and relaxing.
Our table started off with the appetizer sample called Selección de Aperitivos Clásicos. The top tier included the tostones, maduros, and chorizo, or fried green and sweet plantain and chorizo sausage slices.
The plantains tasted slightly bland, with a little too much grease, even though they were perfectly crunchy. The chorizo was very flavourful. On the second tier were the Havana zesty corn, which was creamy but not very sweet, and the chicken empanada, which was nicely seasoned and quite delicious. On the bottom was chicharrones de pollo, or fried marinated chicken drumsticks and wings. They were flavourful from the marinade but could have been juicier.
One friend ordered the Mofongo con Ropa Vieja. Mofongo is described on the menu as “a wildly popular Caribbean dish made with pork and garlic infused mashed plantains.” This one in particular came with braised beef, peppers, and onions and a fried plantain chip. I thought the plantain chip looked particularly artistic. The mofongo was not heavily seasoned and was not my favourite of the night. It was not creamy like mashed potatoes, nor sweet like mashed sweet potatoes. Rather, it was half mashed and not quite flavourful besides the hint of pork and garlic. The beef was great, though.
Another friend ordered Pernil Asado, or roast pork. The pork was good but slightly tough. There was a lot of it though. The rice was aromatic but I thought the dish lacked some sort of vegetable. The pickled onions that came with the pork were rather sour and not very pleasant. Compared to many of the other dishes, the roast pork was not worth the $15.95. The colour was also slightly too pink, looking slightly artificial and revolting.
Now back to the beef in my dish, the Ropa Vieja. The marinated shredded skirt steak was incredibly juicy and full of the marinade flavour. The taste was fabulous but the steak was slightly tough. Not completely pulled into shreds, it was slightly difficult to eat. The onions and peppers got all mushy and became extremely flavourful as well. The yellow rice was also very flavourful compared to regular rice and was cooked to a perfect texture. It went really well with the beef. The plantain chips were again a little bland and soggy near the bottom but still added a nice crunch.
These dishes came with sides as well. I chose Red Beans, which were prepared with pork and quite flavourful. The mushy beans were not too watery or dry but just right. The diced onions also added a little zing and crunch to give the texture some contrast.
Yet another friend got the Black Beans with his Ropa Vieja. Like the server said, they were a lot less flavourful. The texture was pretty much the same as the Red Beans but it was just a small bowl of bland mush. The onions in this case were a little too overpowering.
Someone also ordered Calamares Fritos or fried calamari. The calamari was lightly battered and fried. The thin layer of batter was crispy and not too greasy. The calamari inside was tender and juicy, slightly chewy like good calamari should be. The most amazing part of the dish was not the perfectly fried calamari. Rather, it was the sweet tomato salsa that was served with it. For me, the mixture of tomatoes, onions, and other spices was the star on the plate. It was not too watery but not thickened either and had a pleasantly light sweet flavour.
Finally, we ended our meal with the Bizcocho de Chocolate con Ron, or chocolate rum cake. It was so moist and light for a three-layered chocolate cake. It was pure decadence with a light rum aroma. The chocolate was not overwhelming, and neither was the rum. The flavours balanced out very nicely. The chocolate fudge was delicious and paired with the whipped cream, it was a fabulous end to a delicious meal.
Having sampled quite a number of dishes, I can say that Havana Central generally offers high quality Cuban food. Not very experienced with the particular cuisine itself, I have had Spanish and other similar types of food. Most of what I ate tasted fabulous and flavourful. The price may be on the slightly higher side but considering the location and atmosphere, it is definitely not outrageous. Very accommodating, it is no wonder our team decided to come back here.