As I was enroute to Cuba Libre restaurant in DC, I was thinking of all the negative comments I heard from friends about this restaurant. Naturally, my expectations were low as I walked into the restaurant.
I walk in and clearly see great effort has gone into the interior design with the goal to make you feel like you were out in Cuba. Did this leave me feeling like I was out of DC, in the heart of Cuba? Not so much but it certainly sparked my interest. I am showed to my table and introduced to our server of the night, Walter.
Walter’s enthusiasm, passion and love for Cuban food and the offerings of Cuba Libre changed the tone of the night and listed to him share the story of each dish that we were about to explore. Let’s dig in.
First up was the Pardon Peppers.
Second up was the Crab Guacamole and Ceviche De Pescado. I loved this dish, fresh, simple and with a beautiful presentation.
Third up Cuban Tamal, Albondigas Cubanas, Chicken Croquetas, and Octopus A La Parrilla. Underneath the four dishes was a historical newspaper print from Cuba, a great addition to making us feel we were in Cuba. My favorite dish was the Octopus and least favorite were the meatballs which unfortunately lacked flavor.
Fourth up Pargo A La Plancha. This dish was my favorite part of the food journey there. The combination with of the coconut-basmati rice and perfectly cooked fish topped with the mango salsa was perfection.
Finally dessert. Unfortunately none were gluten-free but for our gluten eating readers, the dessert was just fine. They did not blow us away or make us stop eating. I would perhaps suggest going to Cuba Libre for the appetizers and main course then going off somewhere else for the night for dessert.
Overall I left having changed my initial impression of Cuba Libre and would recommend going there for a different ambiance of the typical DC scene. I would however not recommend this place for vegetarian or gluten-free people as the options are quite limited for those groups. Try their fish selection and drinks to pair with (apparently there is a long-list to choose from, so you won’t be bored).