To be perfectly honest; I’ve never really had Cuban food before. Food from Hispanic countries usually involves using a wide array of different animals, so I tend to avoid eating at anywhere except Mexican restaurants, which is the most vegan-friendly.
Since I didn’t choose the restaurant this time around, it was a bit refreshing to relinquish that power for once. Even though I didn’t choose it, they (fortuitously) had vegan items on the menu! I should let others take charge more often!
The space here is huge. There are three separate dining rooms: the front, which has live Cuban-style music, a canopy-ed outdoor area in the middle, and then a communal-sort of large dining room with long tables for larger parties. I love the wicker + white leather color scheme and rounded passage-ways — it truly evokes a laid-back, island townhouse aura.
Great service truly elevates the dining-out experience, and Havana de Alma had stellar, exemplary attentiveness and cordiality. The waiter we had did ask us multiple times if we wanted more sangria, even though we told him a while back during the first instance that we were ok. Is he trying to get us drunk so he’ll get more tips?! $$$
Perfectly cooked plantains have the ability to inspire the eater to write poetry. Observe:
Caramels and chocolate bars
Skittles, Twizzlers, treats from Mars
They may have sugar by the pound
But they’re nothing like the sweet I found
It grows on trees, unlike money
If not fried with flair, they might taste funny
With the right technique their cloying taste
Lay every other dessert to waste.
See what I mean?
Anyhow, Havana de Alma’s delectably addictive plantains were fried to absolute perfection. The plantain meat itself is soft and has a very moist texture, so it may be tricky to not overfry it. But Havana de Alma’s had just the right amount of caramelized, creme-brûlée reminiscent shell on the outside, and a savorily-sweet texture inside. I could easily have eaten a whole platterful!
Yucca Fries –
HDA continued to impress me with these scrumptious fries, which were the right amount of of breading and seasoning so as to not overpower the yucca inside. I liked that the outer shell of the fries kinda tasted dry to the tongue, which might sound unappealing, but it worked. The fries weren’t exactly crispy like a french fry would be — it reminded me more like plant-based fish sticks. I personally used to love fish sticks, so it explains why I liked these so much.
Note: the dipping sauce contains mayo, so it is NOT vegan.
Give me a large helping of Spanish rice + vegetables, and you’d make me a happy girl. This is essentially the Hispanic version of Chinese fried rice, so it’s little wonder I loved gobbling it up. It does have asparagus, which I despise, but the overpoweringly good flavor/seasoning of the rest of the paella helped me through it. I had also forgotten to tell my waiter to omit, so totally my bad.
You would think that they put in two tablespoons of MSG in here, the rice was that good. I loved the mélange of oyster mushrooms, corn on the cob, cabbage and green beans. It also wasn’t overly salty or seasoned. It tasted like what those box Spanish rice mixes in the grocery store strive to be. 1000x better!
Havana de Alma’s strong suit lies in the strength of the basic tenants of a great dining experience: a gorgeous space, attentive and humorous service and amazing (but not snobbily so) food. So many restaurants lack one or more of those (a lot of the time all, actually), but acing each category is no easy feat, yet Havana de Alma did it without raising a fork (haha!).