The night of the Gluten-Free Chopsticks
“I wouldn’t object” I said to my boss when she had the wonderful idea of taking me and my workmate out for dinner. You don’t get that opportunity everyday so I felt fantastically seduced by the idea of trying something new on a beautiful Havana evening.
“The Asian restaurant of the Melia Habana hotel” she recommended while reciting a whole set of compliments based on its food and Japanese chef’s mastery on the art of turning Cuban supplies into proper Asian dishes.
For a newcomer “Bella Cubana” restaurant might seem a little odd in spite of its Eastern aspect. Cute lanterns, low tables, white and yellow curtains and pictures of old characters trapped in golden frames work as a minimalist decoration of the 77 chair restaurant.
No smiling almond-shaped eyes girl will be found as part of the service crew who is 100% mestiza and genuinely Cuban. However this doesn’t tarnish the place’s authenticity determined by the presence of the skilful Minemoto Yoshida, Japan national to the bones and Melia Hotels International Cuba’s chef for a long time.
“They have menu for celiacs” said my boss pointing out the superiority of the gastronomic space in comparison with their competitors.
“Strange”, I thought. Finding glutten-free food in Havana is as frequent as to discover a large number of celiacs on a society where the comsuption of sugar, carbs, lactose and grains is the norm.
“Let’s order some wine”, urged Monique, my lovely office mate, appealing to her fine spirit’s expertise.
“Sauvignon Blanc it is” we utterly agreed. We were at the wine mecca of the Cuban capital after all. Few cellars on the city match the variety of Melia Habana’s. No wonder one Thursday every month wine enthusiasts and experts gather there in a cultural and gastronomic space called the Wine Club.
We went straight to the main course; I got the plain tuna rolls while my Spanish boss preferred the impeccable and delicious combination of fresh fish with Serrano ham. Monique got the Carpaccio which we obviously couldn’t resist tasting out. In fact, we ended up sharing our plates’ content like schoolgirls at lunch time.
The chef came out of the kitchen right after I started mixing soy sauce and wasabi, methodically and loyal to the spicy food’s addition of mine. He approached and explained the dishes in a very good Cuban Spanish, streaked at times by a Japanese intonation.
We asked him about the Club Gourmet, a system of up to 15% discounts for frequent visitors at Melia Hotels International’s urban restaurants in Cuba. “You only need to register and get your card” he said. Restaurants at Melia Habana, Tryp Habana Libre, Melia Cohiba, Melia Santiago de Cuba and Plaza las Morlas are part of the arrangement. He handed us a flier with info which “you can complement in our website www.meliacuba.es”. Nice Melia Cuba coaching, I thought. “Sales profile chefs are hard to find these days so it seems the MHI guys have it covered”.
Dessert came just about time. We ordered a cute trio of moderate sugar preparations that included flan caramel, cold chocolate and panna cota.
Food was beautiful and although girls at the service were far from perfection, the overall experience deserved 5 stars.
We left the eating premise and walked straight to reception. “Hello Miss, three gourmet cards for us please”!