February 14, 2012 – Meals in Havana, Cuba

[Franklin Marquez – Age –50’s; Birthplace – Santiago de Cuba, Cuba; Residence – Miami, Florida, U.S.; Lives with Wife and Children; Occupation – Attorney, Writer, Moderator of the Blog]

Before I left for my recent trip to Havana, when people said, “Enjoy the great Cuban food,” I said there would be no good food. If I wanted good Cuban food, I would eat at home, or in a restaurant in Miami.

The reason I said that was because on my prior trip, only two years ago, I did not have a single delicious meal. I didn’t blame it on the cooks – I blamed it on the food that was available.

Recently, I spoke to a friend who had gone to Havana with a group. He had described amazing food. I told him that he must have gone to different places than I went.

Well, apparently, a lot has really changed in two years. I knew that new restaurants and paladares had opened, but I didn’t expect what I found.

On this trip, I have not yet eaten in any paladar. I have names of some, but haven’t gotten there. I have had magnificent meals at two state restaurants. All I can think is that they have competition now, with the paladares, so their attitude has changed.

I ate in a restaurant called Castropol, which is actually named Sociedad Asturiana Castropol -- Calle Malecon 107, Havana, Cuba‬. This is within walking distance of the casa particular where I stayed, and the Hotel Deauville.

I ate upstairs one evening. It is more elegant than downstairs, and the food is more upscale. I had plantains as an appetizer, and trout with yucca. It was cooked perfectly, and had a delicious pesto sauce. It came with some natural, sautéed vegetables. The appetizer, the side dishes – everything was exquisite.

The other nights and once at lunch I ate downstairs, which they call a barbeque establishment. It’s a little more rustic. The food was just as good, and not much different. I had steak, pork, etc. My least favorite was the pork.

I found good reviews tonight on Trip Adviser.

My friend from the casa particular had said it was “Gastropol”. I thought it was related to gastronomy. Then I said, “You know it starts with a C. It’s not in honor of Castro, I hope.” So we asked at the restaurant, and were told it is a city in Spain. O.k. then.

I also ate a great steak meal at another restaurant -- ‪El Templete, which is on Ave. del Puerto esq. Narciso Lopez, Old Havana, Havana, Cuba‬. I had a magnificent Chateaubriand, and ceviche as an appetizer.

I also have not gotten sick this trip. I did twice the last time I was in Cuba.

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