11. Santy’s. Simple atmosphere. Rustic views. Simply amazing seafood. And great company – international and Cuban friends. Just an overall amazing time, and will be one spot that I’ll have to continue to go to again and again. So very glad I was guided to attend here.
12. Starbien. A unique house – apparently the owner (head chef too?) used to be the head chef for the French embassy, and was actually born in that house. While it was decorated nicely, I wasn’t a fan of the overall experience. The food was fairly nice – nothing mind blowing, but not bland either – I had a stuffed red pepper and Serrano ham tempura appetizer (very nice), and then camarones in strong garlic-and-butter sauce (okay, I guess).
However, the service sucked, in my opinion. They shoved us in this little room (the VIP room apparently), and separated us away from the entire location – mostly due to us cigar smokers. However, that stiffled out the non-cigar-smokers in our group. It took 55 minutes (not that I actually started counting or anything) to get my FIRST drink, a Cubata (aged rum and Coke – nothing special or hard to make), and only after I asked 3 times. They took our drink order only when they took our overall food order – not drinks, then appetizers, then main course, etc. Took 25 minutes for us to get a second ashtray too, again, only after asking multiple times. The waitstaff would frequently pop their heads in, someone would wave to their attention or cast a look, and then the waitstaff would disappear out again, closing the door behind him, and not helping out. Nicky had to call the waitstaff into the room for additional rounds of drinks later on in the meal. In the end, everyone was very blah about the food generally. I’ll likely not plan on going there again.
13. El Canyonazo. This is a tourist-centric restaurant on the other side of the harbour from Habana Vieja, between the El Morro and La Cabana fortresses, just over through the tunnel. I was taken here by a driver, a friend of a friend that I used for a day. Courteous as I try to be sometimes, I let him talk me out of my wanted plans to go to El Templete that day for lunch. I wish I hadn’t let him. Don’t get me wrong – the service was impeccable (with some very lovely ladies), the music was nice, and the food was pretty darn good too. But, it wasn’t El Templete, and that’s what I was in a mood for. Oh well. I still had a nice seafood mixed grill in garlic sauce. And the locale, and especially the constant flood of classic cars, did make for a nice afternoon stop nontheless.
14. Ivan Justo’s. Wonderful. Croquetas de pescado, with some of the best flambéed bananas that I’ve enjoyed. A wonderful langosta dinner also – not quite a fresh or tender as the lobster that Nino and Gino enjoyed at Santy’s, but very tastly nonetheless. Caribbean lobster is very different for me compared to what we get in Canada – the Atlantic lobster we enjoy is a much sweeter and more tender meat, with Caribbean “langosta” being more chewy (I guess that’s the easiest way to describe it). But this was wonderfully prepared. The guava flan was just icing on the cake for me…but then I had a “hit” of Nino’s “tres leches” dessert. WOW. R ich, decadent, and a yet-so-simple presentation in a tin can. Reminded me of a custard mixed in layers with dulce de leche sauce (actually, that’s probably exactly what it was, lol).
Such a wonderful meal there shared with great company, in a beautiful little paladar, relatively hidden (once again, like many of Nino’s hotspots) down a non-descript looking alleyway in Havana. A stellar restaurant to cap off my week there, and my last group meal shared with friends during this trip. Perfect.