A favorite of the Cuban elite, the overpriced Tocororo (Calle 18 #302, esq. 3ra, tel. 07/204-2209, daily noon–midnight), housed in a neoclassical mansion, has an antique-filled lobby extending into a garden patio with rattan furniture, Tiffany lamps, potted plants, and wooden parrots hanging from gilt perches, plus real parrots in cages. A pianist (by day) and jazz ensemble (by night) entertain.
The food is typical Cuban fare with an exotic international twist; crocodile and ostrich occasionally feature. Expect to pay CUC25 and up (I ask you, CUC40 for a lobster?). Even the bread will be charged, and a 10 percent service charge is automatic. Although El Aljibe and other upscale restaurants have stolen Tocororo’s thunder, it attempted a comeback in 2009 with a new tapas bar (noon–2 a.m.).
The bigwigs in town also dine at the rather gauche La Ferminia (5ta Av. #18207, e/ 182 y 184, tel. 07/273-6786, daily noon–midnight), which serves creative fare crafted by student chefs of the Escuela de Gastronomía across the street.
Paleta Bar y Amelia Restaurante (3ra Av., e/ 70 y 82, tel. 07/204-7311, daily 11:30 a.m.–midnight), on the ground floor of the Miramar Trade Center, is an elegant contemporary restaurant decorated with modern art. The hip marble-topped bar is a fine place to relax. The fairly simple menu includes sandwiches, burgers (CUC3), steaks, and shrimp enchiladas (CUC7).
For jungly ambience try La Cecilia (5ta Av. #11010, e/ 110 y 112, tel. 07/204-1562, daily noon–midnight), another elegant option in the middle of a large garden surrounded by bamboo, although it has an air-conditioned section. It serves typical Cuban dishes such as ajiaco (a stew, and the national dish), tasajo (jerked beef), churrasco (broiled steak), and pollo con mojo (chicken with onion and garlic), as well as grilled lobster. Entrées cost CUC12–25. It hosts a cabaret espectáculo Friday and Saturday nights; there’s live music other nights.
The Complejo Turístico La Giraldilla (Calle 222, e/ 37 y 51, tel. 07/27-0568, 10 a.m.–5 a.m.), in La Coronela, has gone downhill since the disco here was canceled, but is worth the visit if you’re this far west. Choose from a selection of dining rooms in the Patio Los Naranjos. A few years ago, I enjoyed a superb creamed vegetable soup (CUC4), sautéed prawns in garlic (CUC17), and sautéed salmon (CUC19). On Saturdays it hosts a “La Noche del Búfalo” special for groups only (CUC18). La Bodega del Vino basement tapas bar serves everything from tacos to chicken mole, washed down with sangria. It has an extensive wine list.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition