Two of my favorite paladares, the Hurón Azul (Humboldt #153, esq. P) and Le Chansonnier (Calle J #259, e/ 15 y Línea) were closed by authorities at last visit, leaving only a handful of options.
Restaurante Gringo Viejo (Calle 21 #454, e/ E y F, Vedado, tel. 07/831-1946, daily noon–11 p.m.) is favored by Cuban celebrities and is granted extensive leeway by the authorities. It has a consistently great ropa vieja (CUC11), and the flan de la casais delicious. Check your bill carefully.
I’m recommending Paladar Nerei (Calle 19, esq. L, tel. 07/832-7860, Mon.–Fri. noon–midnight, Sat.–Sun. 6 p.m.–midnight) for its terrace dining and filling fish fillet in garlic (CUC12), but this is another place where the owners sometimes scam patrons. The once-wide-ranging menu was limited at last visit to standard Cuban fare.
You’ll do better at Paladar Los Amigos (Calle M #253, e/ 19 y 21, tel. 07/830-0880, daily noon–midnight). This cramped and popular little spot is adorned with posters and photographs of famous Cuban musicians who’ve dined here. It serves huge plates of traditional Cuban dishes for about CUC10.
The tiny and cramped Paladar Restaurante Monguito (Calle L, e/ 23 y 25, Fri.–Wed. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.), directly opposite the Hotel Habana Libre Tryp, is a bargain and for that reason almost always full. “China,” your hostess, serves simple but filling Cuban dishes such as pollo asado, grilled fish, and pork dishes (CUC3–6).
Paladar Las Mercedes (Calle 18 #204, e/ 15 y 17, tel. 07/831-5706, daily noon–midnight) is a charming option in the style of a thatched rural bohío. Excellent quality criollo dishes with an imaginative twist are served, along with tapas and pastas. I recommend the pescado a la Mercedes (two types of fish with cheese sauce), plus calamari. The brocheta (kebab) is also good. All dishes cost CUC17, including a set menu. It has a student special for CUC5 before 7 p.m.
A last resort is Paladar Aries (Av. Universidad #456, e/ J y K, tel. 07/832-4118, daily noon–midnight). Not personally reviewed, but recommended by a reader is Casa Sarasua (Calle 25 #510, e/ H y I, tel. 07/832-2114, Mon.–Sat. noon–11 p.m.), serving traditional Cuban fare. The place is adorned with antique weaponry.
In Nuevo Vedado, La Casa (Calle 30 #865, e/ 26 y 41, tel. 07/881-7000, daily noon–midnight) is worth the drive. This 1950s modernist house still has its original modish decor and is lush with tropical plantings. An indoor-outdoor patio features waterfalls and pools full of drowsy terrapins. La Casa serves such delicious dishes as octopus and onions (CUC9), ceviche (CUC5), and caramel flan (CUC1.20). Matt Dillon and the Kennedys are among the famous clientele.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition