Cuba de Cuba Bistro was much more than I expected, but ultimately less than I’d hoped for. The new restaurant took over the space that had been occupied by a couple of quick-serve chicken operations, so I was expecting C de C to also be an order-at-the-counter and have a seat exercise.
And when I entered and approached the counter I spotted a few large-screen flat-panel televisions hanging overhear displaying the menu. (Televisions as menu boards are suddenly very popular.) But as I was trying to read the words, the screens would change to a different view faster than even Evelyn Wood could handle. So I looked around for a good old fashion printed menu. That’s when I spotted a host stand and figured there was a table-service option.
I liked the dining area. It’s decidedly low-scale with bare tabletops, wooden chairs and a cafeteria kind of feel. But it’s nicely decorated with black and white pictures of Cuba, a mural of gigantic cigars and a colorful wall with the Cuba de Cuba logo of blues and reds.
I was a little surprised at the prices, but I’ve been noticing the prices at other Cuban restaurants have been inching higher. And most of the others aren’t in the high-rent area of downtown Orlando, so I figured that was factored in.
But then I saw the portion size, which was pretty meager, at least for the price. In truth, it was plenty for a full adult portion, which is really all anyone needs. Or at least it would have been enough of a portion if so much of what was included in the roast pork I had ordered wasn’t inedible fat. What I was able to eat had little of the wonderful flavor associated with Cuban style roast pork. Some of the meat was in chunks, some in shreds.
Entrees come with a choice of two side items. I chose the black beans, which were good and included red peppers, and the boiled yuca, which was cold. Like the pork, the cassava had little flavoring, despite a glop of mojo on top.
Service was another disappointment. The staff seems to lack direction and training. When I got my food I noticed that the knife at my place setting was soiled. I would have asked for a replacement if anyone had checked back. (Someone in the kitchen may want to check the temperature on the dishwasher to determine why the flatware isn’t getting cleaned.)
Are these issues associated with a new restaurant? Some of them almost certainly are. But not the food. Properly cooked Cuban food should be a given for Florida restaurants. Proximity should assure it. Cuba de Cuba will likely draw lots of people from downtown, both at lunch with the business crowd and in the evening with nightclubbers (sorry, no walk-up window for a quick Cuban coffee jolt.) But when I’m hungry for a taste of Havana, I think I’ll make the drive to Rincon Cubano in Winter Park. (And maybe the Cuba de Cuba folks should stop in there for a few pointers.)
Cuba de Cuba is at 65 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily; late night until 3 a.m. on weekends. There is no website at this time. The phone number is 407-809-5388.