Gourmet Dining in Havana – Lazaro “Lachi”

14 Dec


You lose some, you win some, you never know what’s next.

That might be the culinary motto in Havana where Paladares will open and close and cooks make a place tall or fall.

My greatest disappointment this trip was the down fall of La Moraleja, a paladar that I loved for its atmosphere, the food, the service, basically my favourite of them all.

But as soon as I stepped inside the charmed garden locale this time I knew the magic was gone.

The lush flowery screened roof was gone and replaced by a timber rood that stifled the patio.

Worse : Ernesto, the genial cook no longer works there.

Their signature octopus salad came drowned in grated cheese and the octopus was hard to find.

And I also received negative comments about the place from long-time Havana residents where I look for new addresses and advice.

So : I rather eat my earlier words of praise and not eat there again.

La Fontana and El Templete maintain their high standards along with La Carboncita. Another fine new place is Riomar, a seafood based place at the end of 3-rd Ave.

But the most amazing discovery I made, guided by my good friend Luis and his wife, was a place I would not have considered entering, never mind given eating there a second thought. I’d have left the place rather quickly had I been on my own.

A garishly painted locale that would give you eye cancer, quite standard in its “Italian” ambience, with red-white and green painted pillars, a basic Italian menu, music that won’t let you have a conversation and an owner who basically just sits glued by the cash register smoking fags and wearing clothes you wouldn’t bring your trash down to the bin in – and one of the most talented young Cuban chefs I’ve met so far.

In his early-forties Lazaro, or Lachi as he is fondly called by his friends, wants to “make it” in Havana.

He has left the state run restaurants in Varadero where he was well known for his creativity and accepted a short term contract in this trattoria just to put his foot into Havana.

Serious, straight, informed, knowledgeable, creative, inspired, humble, intelligent, approachable and a fellow cigar smoker – he should be every restaurant’s center-piece artist and be sought after.

Let’s hope his dream comes true – he certainly deserves it.

We had three dinners with Lazaro – one where we tested the starters and where he startled us with different octopus salads.

A second more serious “surprise us” dinner, where he put his emphasis on texture and left us amazed and a last dinner with the group of German friends from Hamburg that I’d consider serious gourmands.

All of these dinners were complete and finger-licking successes and we could see how much potential Lazaro would have if he’d be in a proper gourmet restaurant able to realize and implement his huge creativity.

I certainly will follow Lachi in his search to make a name in Havana and I certainly hope and wish he makes it.

All my gastronomically interested friends who have had the chance to let Lachi offer them a menu have been enthusiastic about their culinary experience.

If necessary I’ll just put on some dark sunglasses next February, endure the paintwork and just concentrate on what’s on the plate.

After all, that’s where the proof is.




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