Monday, March 22, 2010

Havana Grill

Last weekend Ian and I went to lunch at Havana Grill in Green Valley, which we consider to be the best Cuban restaurant in Vegas. It is a bit of a haul for us considering that its sister restaurant, Florida Cafe, is located less than ten minutes from our house, but the food at Havana Grill is a lot better for some reason and therefore worth the drive. Though the service isn't super speedy, you are perfectly occupied with slices of buttered and grilled cuban bread you will need to restrain yourself from finishing. After limiting myself to one piece (ok, one and a half), I had my favorite dish, the insalada playera ($10 for lunch), which I was glad to see served on a regular plate rather than the ridiculous and impractical shell-shaped bowl it previously was served in. This salad contains small succulent shrimp, ripe avocado, baby tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, and sliced red onion atop a bed of beautifully assembled mixed field greens, and is served with a mojo dressing that is wonderfully pungent with lemon and garlic. It reminds me of a salad you can get at a good cafe in California where fresh and healthful ingredients parallel intense flavor and a sense of hearty satisfaction. I have no complaints whatsoever about the salad because it is exactly the kind of food I like to enjoy. If you are looking for something a bit more filling without feeling stuffed, however, you should get what Ian got, the pollo alla plancha ($10 for lunch). This is a thinly pounded chicken breast grilled to perfection and served with sauteed onions. The onions could definitely be sauteed longer to get some nice caramelization, but the chicken is great and the accompanying 'moros y cristianos' (black beans and white rice) are to die for! The flavors of the latter meld together with bits of tender pork to create a Cuban staple you'll want to eat over and over again.

Another item we usually get is the Cuban sandwich. In case you've never had one, a Cuban sandwich consists of sliced ham, roast pork, pickles, and swiss cheese pressed on a white Cuban bread loaf spread with mustard until it is warm and melty. The version here is well-executed and tasty, and, although I've had better in New York, we haven't found another in town that compares. They offer it in a half size as well, which would be enough for an appetizer for two or a small meal.

Although the food prices here are fairly reasonable for what you get (dinner gets more expensive), drink prices are absolutely not. Even the Strip can't get away with charging $6 for a Miller Lite, unless perhaps you are at one of the best restaurants, and they generally don't even serve Miller Lite. Even worse, the beer at Havana Grill doesn't come to the table icy cold. Perhaps they are trying to give you a taste for authentic Cuban refrigeration temperatures, but at these prices I want refrigeration you can expect at a Ritz Carlton (or any decent bar). Anyhow, just thought I should let you know what you're in for before you get the bill.

Today's Dish Ratings:
Insalada Playera: 8.5
Pollo alla Plancha: 9

Restaurant Rating: 7

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