Going Cuban At Cafe Havana
By Luann Dallojacono/ firstname.lastname@example.org
If you ask the wait staff at Cafe Havana whats behind
the flavorful pop and tasty tangs of their Latin dishes, theyll
tell you its a secret. Well, they may not be willing
to dish on their ingredients, but were certainly willing
to spill the (black) beans on the newfound Foodie hot spot.
The Cuban-themed restaurant opened in Smithtown last summer,
and emerges from Jericho Turnpike in the form of an oasis
of neon lights and artificial palm trees. Cigars for sale
and true Latin music beckon patrons up the stairs and inside
to the hip, modern bar and dining room with sheer drapery
on the ceilings and dim, romantic lighting where one can be
casual or dressy, but feel welcomed just the same.
Most dishes come with the classic staples of Latin food: bell
peppers, onions, garlic and rice. And its not just any
rice. First off, you get a choice of three kinds: yellow,
white, or congri (a mix of rice and beans). We opted for the
yellow rice, which, no matter what it came with, provided
an exquisite burst of flavor with every forkful.
Cafe Havana gets high marks for presentation and providing
a genuinely fun culinary treat every dish was an experience
in itself, and though they arent as spicy as one might
think, they do not lack in flavor or appeal.
The churrasco a la parilla ($24) grilled beef skirt
steak stole the show within seconds of its arrival
at our table. Rolled in a pinwheel shape, the steak is tender
and juicy, cooked to a perfect medium rare in a sweet, tangy,
flavorful marinade like weve never tasted before. And
it came as no surprise to us that, when we asked about the
marinade, we were told it is the chefs secret.
A shrimp ceviche (full $16, half $9), a sweet, citrus-marinated
seafood salad with pepper, onion, garlic and shrimp, was decorated
with long, shaved plantain chips. Scoop the ceviche onto the
crisp plantains for the ultimate in flavor complements.
Coconut shrimp ($10) are sweet, and though the dish could
easily be overwhelmed by the fried coconut, it isnt.
The shrimp come on sticks wedged in a plastic coconut, with
a sweet garlic dipping sauce in the center a fun appetizer
for a lively table. Similar in presentation, the chicken pineapple
and ginger pinchos ($8) are quite a sight. Grilled and marinated
kabobs come on skewers poked in the top of a pineapple, and
the sweet pineapple complements the tender, marinated chicken
Café Havana also caters to those seeking traditional
Latin dishes that arent specifically Cuban. The menu
is peppered with Caribbean and Spanish delights, including
a traditionally Spanish paella de mariscos, which, for one
person ($22) is enough to share, packed with clams, mussels,
shrimp, scallops and calamari.
Havanas bananas ($8) are the perfect way to end the evening.
Sliced bananas are dipped in what else? a secret
sauce, and are then fried, powdered in sugar and sautéed.
The mojito menu is extensive ($8-9) and full of unique, infused
creations, from original to mango or papaya flavored. Best
of all, they come with real sugar cane. We plan to return
soon to check out the live music and dancing on the weekends,
as well as in the spring to enjoy drinks on the outdoor patio.
And dont worry about bringing the kids theres
a menu for them too, with choices ranging from burgers to
arroz con pollo.
Buen provecho that means bon appetite!
Cafe Havana Bar & Grill
944 W. Jericho Turnpike
Price range: Moderate
Hours: Mon Thurs 5 10 p.m.,
Fri 5 11 p.m.,
Sat 5 11 p.m.,
Sun 3 9 p.m.;
Fri and Sat bar hours extended