The dining room is simple. with sky blue walls sparsely decorated with black and white photos of cigar-smoking Cubans and classic cars in Havana parking lots. A guitar and percussion kit in the corner to hint to the fact that there’s music on weekend evenings. This is how we’re introduced to this Cuban spot just north of Alberta Avenue.
Cuban food often gets a bad rap; after all, most of us tourists equate the island nation with great rum, sweets and cigars. But, the setup at La Bodeguita De Cuba reminds me of the paladars I’ve visited in Havana; a paladar is basically a home that’s been converted into a small-scale restaurant.
I start with a tropical milkshake. I go with the mamey flavour. The mamey, a Cuban stonefruit, is a lot less intense than mango. My wife goes with the classic of classics, the Cuban sandwich. It’s a serious meal, with the slow-roasted pork stealing the show in the sandwich that also features ham, pickles and mustard. I go with the Lechon Asado. The dish features tender parts of pork leg that melt in the mouth alongside beans and rice, plus yuca. We also get some fried yuca to share with a garlicky dipping sauce. Yuca is sweeter than potato, and simply addictive in fried form.
It’s not an elaborate experience, but it’s a darn good one.