The Cuban Place Sydney CBD NSW

Coffee and chocolate Mocha Dome with candied peanuts, sweet peanut roll and a dollop of salted caramel ice cream.

Black beans are an integral part of Cuban cooking and cuisine, together with bay leaves, garlic, rice and red kidney beans.   The classic and pervasive presence of black beans and rice  had resulted in a traditional dish called "Moors and Christians".    Sofrito, a heady seasoning mix of green pepper, Oregano, ground pepper and onions, results from quick frying.  

This had led to my prior silo perspective about Cuban food, the preoccupation with sauteing as a cooking technique, plus the imagery of the tropical climate, sugar cane plantations and laid back non-chalance, especially before the USA removed long time embargoes on the sizeable island nation in the Caribbean.

I had missed the point.     Being located at the cross roads of African slave routes, Spanish adventurers, indigenous Taino tribes,  French Caribbean and Portuguese trading routes, and Arabic ingredients, Cuba had years of experimenting with fusion, diverse cultural vibes and ingredients.   I am reminded that many of the produce we take for granted in culinary disciplines today were originally from near Cuba - all types of chillies, tomatoes, corn, cocoa, potatoes and more.     I was amazed when I was told there is a significant Chinese quarter in Havana.  Cuba is relatively near to Florida USA compared to Australian travelling standards.  So there you go, my earlier pre-conceptions about Cuban cuisine were properly and rightfully smashed at this very juncture.

Twice cooked pork neck with a creamy corn, black bean puree and Cassava crackling combination.    The puree and corn matched the pork but I found it a generous serve overall.

Beer battered fish comes with a corn Tortilla.   Plantains are deep fried and served with a Merken sauce  ( a heady Chilean blend of smoked and dried chillies with cumin, coriander and salt).   

Jalapeno, garlic, onions and various spices are used to uplift deep fried chicken wings.      This was what I observed about the easy snacks to accompany the various bar offerings at the Cuban Place, tucked away in another world once you get inside a rather spacious venue for a CBD location.   The place is not bright like a Chinese restaurant, lighting is subdued and there are corners to hide away.  Can I hold a cocktail gathering here?  Of course.     Can I hold a private corporate function?  When would you like to book....

The piped-in music, ethnic, party like and uplifting enough to make you want to dance between courses, does not come in early at dinner time, but only thoughtfully brought in when you have savoured the culinary delights.   This is when the Mojito had set into the senses.  Havana is the birth place of this Highball, concocted in the mists of history either by sugar cane plantation slaves or through episodes involving Brit adventurer Sir Francis Drake, claimed to be a favourite of American author Ernest Hemingway and may be linked to the lime seasoning or marinade with a related name - Mojo.    Nothing to do with Emojis or  the oft-used phrase, "My Mojo", this sauce originated from the Canary Islands to the east of Cuba.  This brings home to me once again the cosmopolitan outcomes of Cuban food.    Mojo is often used on native central American root vegetables like the Malanga, Yuca and the Boniato.

Grasslands premium 250 gram Scotch fillet accompanied by rosemary and garlic flavours and twiced cooked potatoes.

Latin American cuisine has expectations of De la Parrilla - "from the grill".  The dry aged ribeye at 110 grams comes at a $110 price tag, whilst the Wagyu Rump from Oakleigh Ranch is at $47.  All such grills come with a mushroom medley, Chimichurri sauce and sauteed potatoes.

Historic Cuban approaches to meats are to first marinate them in lime or orange juices before roasting to such an extent that the meat falls off the bone.  I may have missed the availability of the Boliche, a beef roast stuffed with hard boiled eggs and Chorizo sausage, an awesome idea for a hungry night!    To me, I understand the underlying philosophy in Cuban meat preparation is simple - dried spices with fresh meats.

Thirteen of us at the table were exposed to a spectrum in recipes of seafood, meats, salads, desserts and wines, though the latter was obviously not from Cuba itself.  I found it stimulating in conversations with my fellow diners - with their detailed observations and facial impressions, when tasting, most delightful to me.

Crispy leek, Kipfler potatoes and a Varadero Sofrito Confit  dressed the pan fried Barramundi.

I so loved my fish mains -  the freshness of the Barramundi seeped through its tender and rather amiable texture.  Yet the skin was crispy and the traditional Sofrito sauce did not clash with the inherent nature of the seafood.  I am not usually comfortable to have potatoes with sea produce but this dish showed me why they are used together.    Leek was in the background, contrasting with the solidity of the other ingredients.

We had kicked off the dinner with a sampling of the Kingfish Ceviche.  This set the tone for me.  I  appreciated the delicateness of this carefully crafted presentation, oozing with different sensations and yet it all held together to get the appetite going.   Every little mouthful revealed, mystified and satisfied.

The staff were professional in engaging with us and yet made us feel thoroughly relaxed throughout the evening.    The Sommelier was passionate in his description of each wine degustation, telling us the background, the notes, the highlights, the cautions and why they were matched with our food courses.   I recall fondly the sight of the young lady staff member who wore a striking red in her pretty Cuban dress  - what an uncommon sight in Sydney, far away from Havana as it can be!

Gnocchi made with green banana  and potato, served with  a sauteed mushroom Consomme and shavings of Manchego cheese.

The Wine Degustation:

Trumpter Torrontes 2015 from Mendoza Argentina  for the entree (Para Empezar).

The mains ( or Fondo) were graced by a Rapel Valley, Chile 2014 Carmenere (Santa Rita Reserve).

To accompany the dessert or Postres, we were served an Oscatel from the Limari Valley in Chile - a 2014 Santa Rita late harvest of Alexandria/ Gewurztraminer. This was my personal  top choice that evening after a long day, for its lightness and not over sweetness struck the right notes with me.

The Cuban Place is located at 125 York Street, opposite the bus stops at the QVB, in Sydney city centre, NSW.   It is fully licensed.
Opening hours are from noon till late from Tuesdays to Fridays; from  5pm till late on Saturdays; and closed for private functions on Sundays and Mondays.

Cuban and Latin American music band in attendance on Friday and Saturday evenings.
The bar is open from 3pm from Tuesdays to Fridays and from 6pm on Saturdays.
Contact + 61 2 9264 4224

My impressions of the Cuban Place in Sydney NSW:
Ambiance: 3.5 out of 5

Customer Engagement:  4 out of 5
Culinary Delight:  4 out of 5
X Factor:  3.5  out of 5
Overall:   15/4 out of 5

Recommended Menu Choices:
Pan de Queso - tapioca and cheese puffs, garnished by Cuajada Seca, quince relish and guava.
Tamales con Cerdo a la Criola - hand made Tamales accompanied by a marinated pork cutlet.
Ropa vieja de Cordero  -  Aussie lamb is braised with yoghurt and served with tomato Salsa. melted onions and Confit garlic potatoes.
Sustainable fish of the day, graced with Kipfler potatoes, Varadero Sofrito Confit and leek strips.
Mocha Dome, with sweet peanut roll, salted caramel ice cream and candied peanuts.

This blog writer dined with the courtesy of the restaurant and arranged by Zomato.
It was a pleasure to be able to meet up with fellow bloggers. 

The Cuban Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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