Needless to say, we ate quite a bit of Cuban food in Miami, but there were two meals that really stood out.
The first was at Versailles, the most well-known restaurant in Little Havana. (The French name had me scratching my head though - I think perhaps because the dining room is supposed to be opulent like the palace Versailles?)
Walking into Versailles for lunch is an incredible experience. When you walk into the cavernous dining room, the first thing you notice is how packed full of people it is. But then after you notice the sheer number of people, as you sit at your table, you start to observe the wonderful diversity of the patrons: all kinds of people, black, white, Hispanic, tourists, business people on their lunch break, people speaking English, Spanish, Spanglish, it is just a melting pot of humanity in one restaurant dining room.The sheer diversity of patrons alone told me that this was going to be a great meal.
For an appetizer we ordered green plantain chips with mojo. As someone who lives in the Midwest, plantains are not something you really see in our region of the country very often. But they are a staple Cuban cuisine, and I have to say, plantain chips are more addicting than potato chips, especially when you dip them in the garlicky, citrusy mojo.
|Plantain chips with mojo|
For my main meal I ordered a Cubano, a traditional Cuban sandwich, which is topped with ham, roast pork and Swiss cheese, on toasted Cuban bread with mustard and pickles. There aren't many perfect sandwiches in this world, but the Cubano is one of them. So many wonderful flavors and textures and the bread truly makes this sandwich what it is. I wish Cuban bread were easier to find in Michigan. I would use it on every sandwich I make.
Our second memorable Cuban feast in Miami was at a small restaurant in Miami Beach called Havana 1957.
|Only a few people when we first arrived...|
|15 minutes later...|
For my main course I ordered a marinated chicken dish with rice and black beans that was so delicious I am still dreaming about it. I would go back to Miami Beach just for that meal (oh, and the warm, blue crystalline water too).
|I don't even remember what was in the marinade for this chicken, but I can still taste it.|
I'd also like to mention that their tiny mason jars of Sangria were pretty adorable - and delicious. I just wish they were BIGGER mason jars. ;)
|Could you maybe make this jar a little bit bigger? :)|
Whenever I travel I try to remember to embrace the cuisine and culture of the place I'm visiting. Miami is a city where you are hard pressed not to embrace Cuban culture because it is so pervasive. I mean, is there any better way to get to know a culture than through its food? It is the great unifier.