Asia De Cuba review: A treat for the taste buds at this high-end, fusion restaurant
Asia de Cuba has been on my dining wish-list for some time. The London branch of the Asian-Cuban fusion eaterie was originally opened at St Martin’s Lane Hotel in 1999, following the success of the New York original. However, last year, the restaurant was given a warmer makeover with retro furniture, drapes and plant pots replacing the previous more contemporary space. The menu has also been reinterpreted with some new additions alongside old favourites by Cuban-born executive chef Luis Pous.
Recently, a group of five of us booked a Sunday evening table for a birthday dinner. Being a Sunday, the restaurant was inevitably a bit quieter compared to the rest of the week, but there was an atmospheric buzz thanks to the other diners, but good acoustics made it possible to hear other members of your party. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the hotel and is easy to see upon entering. Immediately upon arrival, I was struck by how friendly the staff were, with the warmth from the hostess setting the tone for her colleagues’ behaviour for the remainder of our evening.
We had booked a set menu – three courses and a Mini Mojito for £30 which was very good value. Our Mojito was indeed small as the name ‘Mini’ would suggest, but it certainly packed a punch and was sweet and refreshing. When it came to the food, the choices all looked fabulous, so instead of ordering our own individual dishes, we opted to order many to share, sort of Tapas-style. For starters we had Crispy Calamari Salad with banana, chayote, cashews, hearts of palm and orange-sesame vinaigrette; Roasted Duck Salad with almonds, mandarin orange, napa cabbage, radicchio, baby sorrel and spicy miso vinaigrette; Shrimp Ceviche with Shiso, aji amarillo and wasabi; and Black Bean and Plantain Empanadas with Rocoto sweet and sour. The fusion of the Asian and Cuban ingredients really turned the dishes on their head, with some giving unexpected (but delectable nonetheless) tastes. Amongst our party, the general consensus when it came to our favourites was the Shrimp Ceviche and the Crispy Calamari Salad – both an explosion of flavours which made for quite the culinary treats.
For mains, we shared again, splitting the Chipotle Glazed Tofu with Asian green, green papaya salad and calabaza chips; Mojo Duck Confit with Brown rice, orange, Thai basil, Thai chili and poached egg; and a couple of Green and Papaya Marinated Palomilla – an 8oz flat iron steak, tatsoi, pickled vegetables and Thai chili mojo. The Tofu was cooked well (a dish I often find places end up leaving rather bland) and really had quite a kick to it thanks to the Chipotle glaze. The Palomilla was particularly popular with my carnivore pals and they were quickly demolished with glee.
Finally, for dessert, we went off piste and ordered our own dishes. I decided on the Mexican Doughnuts with caramel sauce, which was light, sweet and delicious. Another one of my party opted for something lighter – the Thai Coconut and Lemongrass Flan, served with honeydew and caramel, which was presented quite dramatically and was a good choice for someone who doesn’t like their desserts too sweet. The Chef was to be particularly commended on the Guava Whipped Cheesecake with Coconut tuile and dehydrated tropical fruit. I have never seen a cheesecake in such a physical form before and tasted amazing, according to the diner in question.
Overall, the whole evening was just divine. The staff were absolutely brilliant, with the chef even popping out to say hello. The menu was varied and exciting and really took us on a culinary journey. For me, 10 out of 10. A great choice for a special occasion or a romantic meal.
- Asia De Cuba, St Martin’s Lane Hotel, 45 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4HX. Nearest station: Leicester Square, Covent Garden or Charing Cross. For more information, visit the website.
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