Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian: Restaurant Review

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Leni and Christine at entrance of Asia de Cuba

As the name foretells, a fusion of Asian and Caribbean cuisine marks the imaginatively married flavors produced by famed restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow. Asia de Cuba is considered five stars with dollar signs to match. While the food lived up to its expectations, two thorns pricked this white rose.

Christine at the bar near the open-space restaurant
(Decor by Marcel Wander)

First the ambience. Mixed feelings. Upon arrival for the first time to the Mondrian, we were welcomed by an absolutely Wander wondrous decor--chic stark white tables, chairs and backdrop with the sterling chandeliers housed by mammoth, golden glitter bells. Beautiful people dined at Asia de Cuba but also spilled over to the bar and lounge areas. It is definitely "the scene" --a popular place to people watch and be seen. (Reservations are a must at this limited seating restaurant).

However, the music was strenuously loud and made it difficult to hear the waitress or even hold a steady conversation. Raising my voice at a fine dinner seems an oxymoron, a negative for me. Young people (in their 20's and 30's) are perhaps accustomed to this new age of assault on the senses.

The Service. Poor. Immediately in placing our drink order our waitress Jen (#149) darkened our experience with her gruff attitude. No smile and she was annoyed by our decision to hold off on ordering wine or cocktails and go straight for an entree. Why? My friend Leni and I wore an expression of shock more noticeable than our dolled up outfits and we commented that we hoped she would shake that black cloud but instead, it worsened. Even after we fulfilled the fine print policy at bottom of menu "Minimum order of $25 per person", there was no sign of a pleasant waitress.

At that moment I recalled what so many New Yorkers complain about Miami high priced restaurants "The service is awful. You would never receive such lousy service in a fancy NY restaurant". In this case, they were right. Our water glasses almost empty, we had to beg a bus boy for water more than once. In surveying the crowd, the restaurant was full by 8pm and half were tourists. I wonder if they would return.

On a positive note, the food met our culinary and taste buds expectations but quantity was typical French-style-meager-for-inflated-price. Our waitress asked if this was our first time and we confirmed. She explained that the meals are to share but they come in small portions. The warning cushioned our expectations.

Our first order was from the entree section. Char sui beef short ribs with Congri tostones, glazed with a chili orange mojo and adorned with morsel chunks of sweet potato. The meat was tender and melted like butter and the taste was yet another magical blend of Asian orange and Caribbean mojo. Absolutely delicious. We were ready for more! (Dish: $25)

"Yes the portions are that meager! But the food is incredible!"

Next we tried the Palomillo of marinated lamb: Pan seared with a watercress center salad filled with a sofrito of stir-fried peppers, onions and tiny bits of Japanese eggplant. This oh so succulent lamb was thin as a crepe (easy to cut) but covered the entire plate and encircled by a spicy mysterious green sauce. What was that sauce? It was hypnotic! Did I detect pepper or paprika? Other Asian spices? (Dish: $39)

Then the bigger question: was their room for dessert? Only if we continued sharing. We decided on a rich chocolate devil's cake ($14). The portion was as monstrous as the Mondrian hanging bells. We could not finish it all. That is when the clock struck 10pm and the music launched into a grand finale. Our cue to end dinner.

Unlike the entrees, the desserts are towering and plentiful

While the food was exquisite and memorable, the service was equally haunting. In visiting the lounge, one customer we rubbed elbows with offered high praise for the food and service. Lucky for him, Jen was not his waiter. And he was from New York!

Well with St. Patrick's day approaching, maybe Robby Norris had the luck of the Irish.

Christine at first landing of filigreed staircase just beyond the lobby

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  1. Beautifully described! The misterious souce was chimichurri-asian style. Despite the service, I had a great evening. Thanks for the review!


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