Still Craving for Those Cubano Sandwiches from the Movie, Chef? Get Them At Cafe Cubana, BFAugust 28, 2019
Bars are rarely known for having decent grub; a lot of the time, dishes in drinking spots exemplify how an afterthought would taste like. Although the alcohol is there to distract you from the lack of taste, it would save many people a lot of time and effort to just eat at the bar rather than eat elsewhere before drinking. Perhaps more bars and pubs should take a cue from the newly opened Café Cubana, the latest addition to BF Homes’ Aguirre.
Café Cubana’s doesn’t call a lot of attention itself. A quick drive past makes you assume it’s yet-another-bar-in-Aguirre. But its large sign will catch the attention of anyone still craving Cubano sandwiches from Chef, and even the regular consumer of Latin American inspired dishes. Anyone after these specific dishes might be a little confused when they step inside: the walls are decorated with scenes from Cuba and vintage ads from the namesake, but the ambience doesn’t hold back in inviting you to have several drinks. The waitress will also hand three menus: the comprehensive drinks list, the menu of Las Paellas Café, and a clipboard with Café Cubana’s diverse choices.
The menu is a bit overwhelming at first: there are several starters such as Empanaditas (PHP 265) and Black Beans & Hummus Dip (PHP 265); a wide range of pizza choices from the Havana Meat Lovers (PHP 365) to Chorizo Cienfuego (PHP 355); sandwiches and burgers like a Roast Beef Panini (PHP 255) and Crispy Lechon Panini (PHP 255) that come with fries; and sides or appetizers like the Cubano Onion Soup (PHP 155) and Orange and Feta Salad (PHP 265). For our visit, we ordered the Croquettas de Cubana (PHP 245), Quattro Queso pizza (PHP 335), and the Classic Cubano Sandwich (PHP 315).
Don’t let the Croquettas de Cubana’s four pieces fool you: size and quantity won’t matter once you taste the balance of the crispy exterior and the tender comfort of the mashed potatoes. The chorizo y hamon adds just enough salty meat, while the tomato dipping sauce gives the breading the right amount of zest. The exterior is fried well and doesn’t come out too oily like most bars would serve deep-fried appetizers. The croquettes are light enough in flavor and in quantity to act as a starter, but the plate can also serve as a decent pulutan late at night.
The croquettes only hinted at the capabilities of Café Cubana’s kitchen. The Classic Cubano Sandwich’s pork was soft to the bite and the taste of its fat left a feeling of deep satisfaction. The pork felt a little dry at first, but it didn’t really matter given the meat’s fullness in flavor. The jalapeño is hidden at the end of the sandwich, but it ends the dish with the right kick of spice and doesn’t overwhelm the spice-averse palate. The sandwich also comes with a small bowl of the juice the pork released while it was cooked. Although the sandwich doesn’t need the extra flavor, it’s a welcome add-on for those who are more indulgent with their meat.
With both dishes impressing beyond expectation, Café Cubana kept rising and reached the pinnacle in the Quattro Queso pizza. Most menu descriptions flower what each dish has to offer. But Café Cubana’s Quattro Queso blurb is honest and straightforward: “mozzarella, cheddar, feta, blue cheese, and pizza sauce.” The blue cheese dominates over the other cheese, but they provide a balanced base and subtle contrast. Given its PHP 335 price tag, we did not expect a pizza that could be shared among a hungry group of four or six members of a drunk barkada. The thin crust was crisp but did not break as we went for each bite. The crust also withstood being rolled so we could eat double the four-cheese flavors.
With so many restaurants popping up left and right on Aguirre, we hope Café Cubana survives amid all that competition. Its menu is diverse enough for any type of craving and the serving sizes are generous against the actual price. There’s also the convenience of not having to eat elsewhere before drinking away the rest of the night. Café Cubana may be a bar on the outside and in the inside, but it also deserves more attention for its pretty excellent food.