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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'll Stick to the Cigars

When a new restaurant opens one of the main things they should concentrate on is good service. When they neglect that basic tenet the diner will usually leave with a bad taste in their mouth. Add the bad taste left by the food and chances are the same diner will never return. That's how I feel after dining at the new Cuban restaurant that just opened in Salem.

Why I thought Cuban food would offer some "healthy" choices that would allow me to stay on my diet, I don't know. I'm mad at myself for not only allowing my "cheat" day to be moved up four days but for the poor choice in food as well.

First off let me say Cuban flies are nasty. You can't just wave them off. They don't take no for an answer and they're fast, like Speedy Gonzales fast. Strike one.

Since I'm not familiar with Cuban food I thought the best option would be to choose the appetizer sampler which I thought, according to what I read on the menu, would be a little bit of each of the four appetizers. My friend went with a sandwich, which she thought was going to be pork.

As we waited for our lunch we both opted for water as our drink. It was Salem's finest water, which if you work or live in Salem you know is pretty rank. Filter's are a must. Strike two.

The waiter came and brought a mini platter of some sort of very finely chopped mystery meat placed on top of a fried something. Spanish olives, the crappy ones you get in the $1.00 bottle, were placed on top of the meat. When he sat the plate down he said, "this goes with the sandwich." We were both surprised as the menu said French fries went with the sandwich. My friend starting eating one but couldn't decipher what it was so offered me one. I tried it and it reminded me of the Jamaican beef patty mystery meat on top of what I believed was -- although it didn't look anything like the ones I've had in Brooklyn -- a fried plantain. Just to be sure we called the waiter over and asked what it was and he told us in Spanish, which meant nothing to us. I asked if he could explain in English and he said beef with plantain.

A little while later the waiter brought out my friend's sandwich which wasn't what she thought it would be as there was ham and swiss cheese in it. It was rather large and came with a side of fries. After a couple of minutes more without my meal, I asked the waiter if they forgot about me, and he pointed to the leftover mystery meat appetizer. Apparently that was my lunch, and it didn't come with the sandwich after all. Luckily my friend didn't like it too much, so there were leftovers. I didn't like it much either but I felt weak after our walk and needed to eat something.

After I finished them I asked again where the rest of the appetizers were and was told they were still making the shrimp. Since the menu had listed four different items I thought I would be getting two others as well. More minutes passed with nothing brought to the table so I called over yet a different waiter. He couldn't speak English so he called another one over who then asked my friend if she wanted the second part of her sandwich boxed. I remarked that I was still waiting for my meal. He looked perplexed and left never to return again. How long does it take to cook shrimp anyway? Strike three.

A waiter came by again to fill my friends glass, neglected mine, (damn I should have left my invisibility cloak home) and asked her again if she wanted to take home the half sandwich. By the way, she did say it was good, but wouldn't try the fries since they looked rancid. I asked the waiter to bring over a menu and pointed to what I had ordered and asked what had happened with the rest of the items. From what I could garner with the language barrier and all, they put two of the items together -- the mystery meat and plantains and they were still cooking the shrimp. I pointed to the other two appetizers listed and he said they didn't come with the sampler. Silly me. We had to leave so I told him to forget the shrimp. He says, "Oh you wanted it to go." "Ummm, no I didn't. I wanted to have lunch with my friend at the same time. Just charge me for the one appetizer and that'll be fine." "Do you want separate checks?" "Yes please." Naturally he brought one check.

He did bring a to go box over to me and said I should take the shrimp anyway and he wouldn't charge me for it. It was three small shrimp fried? in a red colored spice placed on top of the exact same type of cup shaped fried plantains as the mystery meat. How many plantains can one person eat??? I took them anyway and tried one when I got to work -- horribly overcooked with the tail on. My husband wouldn't even try one. I threw them out.

Just a note...when I go out for Japanese food, the staff doesn't only speak Japanese, same with Italian and Mexican. I don't think it's too much to ask to have your staff speak English no matter what foreign cuisine is being served.

It may be that the place is so new that it still has to work out the bugs, but I don't think I'll be returning. I'm sure everyone else in the Roanoke Valley will love it and it will remain open for years to come. If this restaurant is an accurate reflection of what Cuban cusine is, it's just not for me...I'll stick to their cigars.

cuban Pictures, Images and Photos


  1. Thanks for the tip. I loved the Cuban food at Paradiso, which was in the City Market Building. I sure hope Juan and his wife aren't the owners of the new place you mentioned. Their food was really good. They had a shrimp salad with a plantain but lots of steamed shrimp, not fried. It had a fabulous dressing on it and there were several other vegetables. I will miss them.

  2. I've had delicious Jamaican food before, but I don't know if I've eaten Cuban. I'm sorry your experience was so bad. Now I want to try Cuban food and see what it's like. I'm sure I'd rather have the cuisine than the cigar.