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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cafe Coral de Cuba - Viva La Libertad!

I sampled Cuban food once in Fort Lauderdale years ago; up until several weeks ago, Cuban food was but a sweet and savoury memory that occasionally wandered through my subconscious. I practically did a double-take when I noticed a Cuban flag hanging in the window of Cafe Dabar's former digs. Cuban food is ridiculously difficult to find in most Canadian cities. If Cafe Coral's offerings were as good as what I remembered from Florida, I was in for a treat.

Cafe con Leche replete with tendrils of steam

I planned a trip with my steadfast bovine companion, Marlow Moo, and my Cuban friend Gabby. We ordered, upon Gabby's recommendation, Cafe con Leche. It isn't on the menu, but owners Nestora and Lidice will make one for you if you ask. It's similar to a latte, except it is made with Cuban espresso, which is sharper and more bitter than Italian espresso.

Pork and ham come from the same magical, mystical animal

We dive into a Cubano, Ropa Vieja, and Pollo Asado. A Cubano is a sandwich that is generously layered with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and dill pickles. It is a hearty meal unto itself and sings with juicy, savoury meat, saline pickles and mellow cheese. The sandwich I had in Florida pales in comparison to Cafe Coral's version.

Are you going to finish all that, Marlow?

Ropa Vieja literally translates as "old clothes." It is one of Cuba's national dishes and contains finely shredded flank steak dressed in a spicy tomato-based sauce. It is served with rice and beans; the summation of these ingredients is amenable to both tropical climes and as an antidote to bitter Canadian winters. We nibble on a side of piquant plantain chips. They are devilishly addictive.

Which came first, the pollo or the asado?

Pollo Asado is, essentially, chicken roasted in citrus juices and spices, namely, cumin and oregano. Here, an entire leg and thigh are drenched in juicy marinade. Rice and beans are the go-to side.

Say cheese...and guava...

We finish with guava jam and cheese. The jam is so thick and sticky that it is cut into slices and topped with mild, white cheese. Gabby remembers enjoying this snack on crackers. I concur that crackers would make this dish easier to eat. Nonetheless, the guava is demure and exotic and is a welcome change from more accessible fruits like strawberries and raspberries. Nothing against those ones, though...

What a treat to rediscover Cuban food in the frozen north. It is especially a treat that this food exceeds what I remember from Florida. Cafe Coral de Cuba just opened up - I hope the city welcomes them with open arms.

Cafe Coral de Cuba on Urbanspoon

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