Culture

Ornate dining and its inauthentic self

During my travels it is often quite an adventure deciding where to eat. Does one pick a popular restaurant? Perhaps a place that serves a cuisine one has never had. Other times it is just a matter of expediency.

For me I always want something authentic but what does authentic mean anyway?

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I recently went to a Cuban restaurant in San Francisco. As you may know, there are not that many Cubans out west. For that matter barely any Puerto Ricans either. I was excited to try the Cuban restaurant because it was ornate, superbly so. From the outside it seemed to be an interesting environment in which to dine. Then as we sat, I looked around more closely. There were all sorts of odds and ends coming down from the ceilings and walls. For a second I felt like I was in that creepy Lisa Bonet movie of Angel Heart. I tried to then order an entree of picadillo and there was none to order. I looked at the menu and wondered what exactly was the Cuban cuisine they were featuring. As a New Yorker who has had access to great NYC Cuban restaurants and as someone who has traveled to Cuba, I just didn’t see much that merited labeling the restaurant as Cuban.
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Were those creepy odds and ends supposed to make one feel they were having an authentic Cuban dining experience? I just didn’t get it. However, I have often seen restaurants creating an “ornate” and quite elaborate dining environment to invoke a certain culture. More often than not it is a caricatured culture. That is how I felt as I dined at this not-so Cuban, Cuban restaurant.

Hmmm. I think I will instead stick with ornate drinks that are in some respects quite simple such as this delicious rum and basil cocktail below.

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11 replies »

  1. I found the cuisine in Cuba to be very bland and uninspiring and in fact was advised to bring my own spices to flavor food in restaurants. I was surprised and I, too, had been in wonderful Cuban restaurants in L.A.! I think the scarcity of flavors might have had to do with the embargo. (This was years ago) and the lack of much in any of the stores. But, perhaps I just went to the wrong restaurants! Loved your pix! But yes, bizarre. Were you afraid something would drop on your head?

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    • I think cuba is a mixed bag when it comes to food. With the embargo there is definite scarcity. Not of rum though and those were fab. The paradores had great food, i found. Im dying to go back to see how things have changed; are changing.

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