A cool evening and a hunger for something ethnic brought me to Times Square to dabble in the new fall menu selections of Havana Central Restaurant & Bar. The brainchild of restaurateur Jeremy Merrin delivered a stimulating experience that is sure to be appreciated for years to come by the many tourists, businesspeople and culinary nomads wandering the area.
Upon entering, you are immediately transported to another place and time. Warm tropical colors, brushed steel, old woods and 1950s-era artifacts are pulled together with an expert’s hand, to create an energized, yet extremely warm and inviting space. Vintage Cuban artwork line the walls and a long busy bar runs the length of the downstairs room, complimented by high ceilings and happy patrons. One of the first impressions is the tangible commitment to quality service and hospitality. This alone is enough to have me coming back for seconds.
After imbibing a world-class, classic Mojito, adorned with a fresh sugar cane swizzle stick, it was time to dive into Executive Chef Stanley Licairac’s new fall menu. Tonight we would continue the trend and be pairing with unique, flavored Mojitos. We had serious plans for the appetizer portion of the meal, so we started off with the Caldo Gallego (white bean, chorizo and kale stew, served with white rice and fresh avocado), a Latin American favorite and true comfort food. This zesty beginning was paired with a Ginger Mojito that was the perfect compliment and was followedup by a trio of Cuban Tamales. Served with a garlic mojo sauce, these were done just right and set the stage for the Mojito Shrimp (dark rum, cinnamon, allspice, cilantro and lime-infused jumbo shrimp, served over a pineapple pico de gallo) which expertly articulated the Cuban palate and were extraordinary.
Moving onto the entrée portion of the meal the Vegetable Picadillo spoke of a nouveau Cuban style. A handmade yucca crisp stuffed with a medley of fire-roasted veggies, on a sweet plantain puree was incredible when drizzled with their private-labeled Mango hot sauce. Whatever you do, don’t treat that yucca crisp simply as as a bowl! Break it up and use it like chips to scoop up every last bite of this delicious creation! We capped our elaborate feast with the Malbec Braised Short Ribs (served with coconut rice) and readied ourselves for the sweeter side of life at Havana Central.
Our final course brought an Empanada Dessert Trio (dark chocolate and maduros, berry with butter cream and chocolate) and a Guava Cream Pie, individually served in a cast iron skillet. Paired with a unique Rose Water Mojito, this put the dot on the exclamation mark of our meal and sent us off, satisfied, into the New York City evening.