Paladars are family run restaurants which serve Cuban food and normally to quite a high standard. We had not eaten at one in about a week or more of being in Cuba so we thought we would check it out. And I get the feeling this was simply an exceptional and charming experience.
I recommend getting here early in order to get a table. We arrived around 7.30 and it was very quiet. We were one of two couples there. This is always a source of concern for me when you turn up somewhere and it's quiet. We were quickly among a crowd though of mainly tourists coming through the door.
The decor here is just spectacular - it's part living museum, part restaurant. The house has been in the family for generations and they've beautifully decorated the entrance with antique furniture including a large beautiful bed with linen sheets etc. There are signs which describe the significance of each piece so you can understand what it was used for (the bed, perhaps, self evident).
The menu here is huge. It took us quite some time to eventually settle upon something to eat as there is a lot of choice. We shared two starters including Casabes which is a local food with shredded meat, onions and tomatoes. Very tasty too, it looks like pitta bread with a meaty stuffing but the 'bread' is a little soft, almost spongy. The meat is well-seasoned and if you enjoy pulled pork or pabellon creollo (Venezuelan dish) then you'll enjoy this. I had the brusquetta which was really fresh, simply made and better than a lot of ones I've had in much more upmarket places. Oh, at this stage we started drinking bottled water and cuba libres too.
Our main courses were interesting: my girlfriend had the best of the two which was a curried chicken with dried fruit. Needless to say curried chicken is not something I thought I would find myself eating in a small Cuban town - yet alone enjoy as much as I did. The meat is on the bone in case this is something that troubles you. My main course was not as good - it was the pork steak with the aged Havana rum. I was hoping for a sweet sauce, like a brandy sauce, which would accompany the pork, a normally quite sweet meat. This was just a raw shot of rum poured over grilled pork. The pork was grilled nicely but the raw rum was just too much and doesn't work at all. I ended up trying to avoid it and then poured it away on a side plate - such as waste. I recommend that they change this approach and reduce the rum in the pan with the pork at the last minute to create a sticky, sweet glaze. Shame.
At this stage we were stuffed and couldn't managed dessert. The whole dinner experience was very enjoyable. The dining area is "C" shaped looking onto a walled garden area with statutes, plants and flowers. There is a live band that plays and sings Spanish songs to the group. Typically, they will ask you to buy a CD or make a contribution for the pleasure of listening to them.
I would happily come back here again despite the disappointing main course. The whole experience is so enjoyable and the service is very thoughtful.
One recommendation: bring bug spray. We got bitten a little bit but not much.
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