What is Cuban food? We only knew of the traditional Cuban sandwich which is in essence a revamped ham and cheese sandwich, oftentimes with pickles and roasted pork as well as ham and cheese, always served on Cuban bread. The Cuban Sandwich was actually invented in Florida cafés to cater to Cuban workers, it didn’t even originate in Cuba! When we visited La Habanera, Montreal’s most popular Cuban restaurant, they had unfortunately run out of their take on a Cuban sandwich.
La Habanera is owned by the same team as Escondite, a Mexican restaurant just a few doors down, that serves delicious Mexican fare. We walked in with high expectations, excited to discover Cuban food. We admit, we’re not well versed! La Habanera is tiny, it seats only 20 people so reservations are a must, and hard to come by.
They have a full bar with fabulous cocktails, and a wonderful cocktail list to choose from but we were loud rambunctious girls, so our bartender experimented and whipped up a few off-menu cocktails in a multitude of flavours. We really liked his style, and the style of the restaurant! Trust us when we tell you that La Habanera has a unique style, it’s like a little Cuban museum.
We started with a green papaya salad with nectarines, jicama, and dried mangos that are tossed in a mandarin dressing with cashews, feta and pancetta. It wasn’t our favourite appetizer, it lacked a certain kick or flair, the dressing was weak and there should have been more pancetta. We barely tasted the papaya, perhaps the salad needed to be spicier?
But fret not, all was righted with the Bao Cubano, which was a steamed bao bun stuffed with delicious crispy saffron fried chicken and a Habanero salsa. We don’t know how particularly Cuban this dish is, but we know that it was exceptional at La Habanera! The chicken was incredible and there was not too much salsa overpowering the taste of the chicken.
Since we loved the tacos at Escondite we decided to order the tacos at La Habanera. Our favourite were the pulled chicken tacos, with slaw, salsa verde and queso fresco. The pulled chicken was full of flavour, and a generous amount of meat was bursting out of the little tacos. The fish tacos were made up of cod tempura, with a mango ceviche, and ginger and pineapple crema, for a fresher taco, both are worth returning for.
We didn’t get a chance to try the plantain cups filled with rum, coconut and garlic dulce de leche shrimps, they sounded like a delicious mouthful, but our friends told us that it was their least favourite dish. What was exceptional were the adobo pork ribs in a maple pineapple and basil glaze BBQ sauce that may not look like much in the picture, but we assure you that we licked our fingers clean. Four girls enjoyed two orders of the Pina Ribs, they were THAT good!
La Habanera, you had some gems on your menu but we actually have no idea if they were representative of Cuban cuisine, particularly that delicious Bao Cubano bun. Montreal is all about fusion cuisine so we’ll let this one slide! La Habanera is a fab little spot to get boozy and share a few plates at a very reasonable cost. We’ll definitely be back to try La Habanera’s Cuban sandwich, which is where our expertise on Cuban cuisine ends!
Our Review: As Expected
Tagged: 1216 Union Ave, Bao Cubano, Cuban restaurant, Fish Tacos, H3B 3C4, La Habanera, La Habanera Cuban, La Habanera Montreal, Montreal Cuban restaurant, Montreal Restaurant, Montreal tacos, Papaya Salad, pulled chicken tacos, Ribs, Tacos