Cubano's: It's all about the Mojo

Sept. 2, 2005, midnight | By Devon Madison | 18 years, 10 months ago

Special sauce makes average food better

Cubano's, a relatively small Cuban restaurant in Silver Spring sits across the street from the well known Mi Rancho. The restaurant's size, cost, and proximity to the very popular Mi Rancho causes it to often be overlooked.

Almost as soon as our party sat down in the well-lit restaurant, waiters brought water and specially seasoned bread that was very different from, and much better than any other restaurant's complimentary bread. The waiters also waited graciously for the patrons to order off the menu, and were helpful in pointing out the restaurants' specialties.

The waiter recommended a delicious appetizer for a large group, " Bandeja Cubano's," a $14.95 dish comprised of a mixture of all of the appetizers, specifically tostones, an empanada, croquettes, chicharrones, roasted pork, fried yuca, and a special sauce, "mojo," which was the best part of the platter.

The Mojo sauce was a tangy red cocktail-like sauce served like a Cuban cocktail sauce and gave the blander appetizers a little zing. The mojo sauce went best with the fried yuca, which was almost as irresistible as the American favorite, French fries and ketchup. The rest of the appetizers were good as well, with the crispy, succulent chicharrones (marinated chicken on its bone) coming in a close second behind the yuca. The empanada, which is a wrap filled with ground beef was less then terrific, because it was too heavy on the wrap. The tostones, or fried plantains, were exceptional, and this traditionally Cuban food was made even better by the mojo sauce. The roasted pork, which only comes as a part of the platter, was bland and added little. Finally, the platter contained two croquettes, a type of dough or bread that often contains ham inside. These were a little too doughy and generally uninteresting, and the platter would have been fine without them.

The entrées were less satisfying than the appetizers. The milanesa de pollo, priced at $14.95, was a breaded chicken fillet with mojo sauce and melted cheese. The entrée was like an Italian chicken Parmesan with a Cuban twist, and was very rich and filling, an unpleasant combination after the similarly rich appetizers.

Another entrée was the bistec palomilla, also $14.95, comprising a finely marinated and thinly sliced top sirloin, flame grilled, and blanketed with minced onions and parsley. This entrée was decent, but not outstanding. It didn't have as much flavor as expected and was very chewy; however, it had a fine presentation and still made for a tolerable main course.

The dessert was the highlight of the entire meal. The "pastel tres leches" dessert made for a superior finish. Priced at only $4.50, it was described as a "nostalgic moistly enriched sponge cake," drizzled with chocolate. The restaurant claims that the dessert is a famous Latin American dessert, and Cubano's more than does it justice.

Cubano's is a little pricy; however, the portions are big and the atmosphere is superior. The service is fast, even on a Friday night, and the waiters are friendly. If you're looking for an easy and relaxing dinner and have a little money to spare, Cubano's is certainly a satisfactory pick.

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