Cuban food is a treat at this San Fernando restaurant – Daily News

Mojitos in San Fernando is an outdoor cafe that offers a taste of Havana with particularly good, crispy empanadas, along with live music on the weekends. (Photo by Meryl Schindler)

They don’t have a liquor license the mojito in downtown San Fernando. So, depending on how doctrinaire you are about your cocktails, the wine-based mojitos they make (classic, mango, strawberry, coconut pineapple, and passion fruit) are either a smart decision… or a slightly alcoholic fruity drink.

But since the mojito has always been a rum-based fruit drink made from sugarcane juice, lime juice, sparkling water and mint, making it with wine is no less legitimate than non-alcoholic beer. Anyway, I read that one of the most popular mojitos in Havana these days is made using a rose-scented spirit. In Mexico, the mojito is made with tequila.

In Peru, mojitos are flavored with grapefruit, passion fruit, pears, raspberries, oranges and strawberries. I’ve seen mojitos made with gin and tonic water. One legend has it that the mojito was created by Sir Francis Drake, who used brandy. Hemingway drank a lot of them when he was in Havana. It was recently named the most popular cocktail in both the UK and France.

As far as I’m concerned, as long as it tastes good, it’s a good enough drink to drink while sitting on the patio of the San Fernando Library. This is where the Mojitos restaurant nestles, hidden from the traffic of Maclay Street, in a quiet enclave, next to a barbecue shop, opposite a Mexican restaurant.

I wasn’t here for the mojito. I was here for the pollo asado, a hearty marinated chicken dish that I never tire of. The Mojitos version doesn’t have as much garlic as the famous one at Versailles. But the meat — so sweet! — falls off the bone. It messed up my fingers and my shirt. I had no complaints.

It’s both crunchy and tender, topped with lots of chopped onions and sauce, served with surprisingly tasty white rice, black beans that have been boiled down to their essentials, and plantains that are half starch and half dessert.

But really, it all comes down to the chicken and the sauce. And yet it’s hard to resist the urge to taste more. The idea hovers in the air that maybe, just maybe, there’s a dish on the menu that’s even better. So, I brought along a good eater – a heavy fork – to help out.

We were there for weekday lunch when they were offering dinner meals at quite a discount. We started with an order of beef empanadas, which were crispy like fries, reminding me that the Cuban culinary mantra seems to be when in doubt, deep fry.

Crunchyness is everywhere—and especially in the thinly sliced ​​plantain chips called mariquitas and the pork dish called masitas de puerco, “marinated in our homemade garlic sauce.”

While not specifically for lunch, we also turned down the Cubano Sandwich, which isn’t so much a sandwich as a pastry, packed with a crazy number of ingredients dominated by pork, pickles and cheese, served on crusty bread that reminds you of how good may be the bread (and what a debt we owe to Earl Sandwich and his card game).

I don’t understand how they stay so neat in Havana; I guess it’s all a dance.

We had ropa vieja — which translates to “old clothes” — and is a dish of shredded, stewed beef so tender that the tagline at a local barbecue house read, “You don’t need teeth to eat our beef.” And that applies perfectly here.

The pork—the Mofongos remind me how good the Cuban treatment of pork really is—includes lechon asado (roasted pork marinated in garlic mojo sauce) and the aforementioned macitas de puerco fritas, which somehow manage to be both tender and crunchy at the same time.

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