August used to work on the same block as Havana and had been there a couple of times before tonight, but it’s a first for Zach. Having been around for ten years, Havana is known for Cuban tapas and an extensive mojito selection, and we learned that they recently opened a cafe inside Autopia Car Wash up the street a bit. The bar here at the main restaurant was certainly popular but not boisterous or off-putting, so we enjoyed a very nice meal in a pleasant atmosphere.
Zach can’t eat whole nuts, but he had to try at least one walnut so that we could both tell you about the flavors of this surprise bar snack. Walnuts, almonds, and peanuts are lightly toasted with a well balanced combination of sweet, salty, and the tiniest hint of spiciness. These paired well with our mojitos.
We’re not kidding about fruit servings. The mojitos are both made with Cruzan rum, mint, sugar, lime juice, and a splash of soda; August’s included mango puree, and Zach’s had fresh pomegranate juice. There was good tang and tartness, a balanced lime to mint ratio, and it was mildly sweetened so it didn’t have an overpowering sugar aftertaste.
Filled with one of August’s favorite cheese, Manchego, we couldn’t pass this up. The crust was an herbed panko, crispy yet very tender and easy to bite through. The herbs added a nice subtle flavor to the exterior surrounding the Manchego, which was like a cheesy salty fusion with delicious ham morsels throughout. Try a bite with some arugula to and a mild earthy spice.
Boniato is the poetic sounding term for a not-too-sweet sweet potato. These garlic fries came paired with chimichurri aioli and guava chipotle barbeque sauce. These are definitely a Caribbean twist on your typical garlic fries. Hand-cut and crispy on the outside, the fries were mildly sweet in the middle – don’t worry, nothing like Thanksgivingtime sweet potatoes. Be prepared for some spicy garlic, and the two sauces provide contrasting flavors to be enjoyed from the same plate. The aioi was creamy but packed with a variety of fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, and cilantro. It would be great as a spread on a sandwich. The barbeque sauce was was totally atypical with the guava and chipotle, as it was sweet and very mildly spicy. The name explains itself, as guava comes before chipotle.
We have written enough about scallops in previous posts, who can identify August’s nickname for them? (bonus points to the reader who tells us in the comments.) The ones here were no different – delicious and delicate. They were placed atop mashed boniato, then drizzled with cumin crema and truffle oil. The scallops had a nice sear, were tender and juicy, and seasoned perfectly. The crema with cumin was a little tangy to go with the sweet scallops and boniato mash, which itself was creamy and buttery.
This would be a great lunch on its own some day visiting Walnut Creek in the future. With ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, pickles, mustard, and arugula on a toasted roll, this is a popular tapa. Both meats were tender and flavorful, the pork a little smokier. Freshly cut vegetables are always a plus, and the arugula was a great green leaf to pair with the other elements. The bread was crunch on the outside from a panini press (most likely, we weren’t watching the kitchen) but it was still soft in the middle and easy to bite through.
The paella was the only item we got that’s not a tapa, and by this time the sun had gone down and we lost our wonderful natural light, but the flash does bring out the bright saffron color of the rice and the verdant green peas. The rice was tender, the peas not overdone, and the proteins varied – clams, shrimp, chorizo, and chicken. The chicken was juicy, the chorizo added smokiness, the shrimp succulent, well cooked, and fresh tasting, and August wished there were more clams.
We really wanted to try one of their desserts but we had no room, and we didn’t even come close to finishing all that we ordered – it’s a special treat night for the dog! We highly recommend this place for fresh Cuban food and appreciate that the owner has such attention to detail.