Long before it was cool to do fusion food, Chino Bandido arrived on the scene in Phoenix. This was back in 1990 when interracial marriages were barely okay, let alone interracial food. But Chino Bandido found something that worked – Asian and Hispanic food and hasn’t looked back. So while the name is a reference to Chinese and Mexican food, things like Cuban Beans and Teriyaki Chicken tell a larger tale.
I’ve always been a little wary of meals in which you cannot choose your food. This is, of course, the case with pop up restaurants. Yet, when I saw Foodshop‘s latest menu, filled with the flavors of the Caribbean, I was convinced to give it a shot. Thus, we took the long drive to Venice to grab some food at an undisclosed location.
EDIT: As always, Conflict Kitchen continues update the menu for different countries. Rumor has it it’s currently Iranian, but likely won’t be for long.
With the advent of improved relations between the US and Cuba, Conflict Kitchen (which I wrote about back here) decided to switch from Palestinian food over to food representing that land mass 90 miles from Florida. They had done this once before, but they probably figured they wouldn’t have the opportunity again.
While on an old-fashioned quest for unique ethnic food, a couple of friends and I almost literally stumbled upon Salud in Lawrenceville, which purported to dole out Cuban food. Having somewhat recently brushed with Cuban food in Orlando I was excited at the prospect of some of their meaty eats and we decided to check it out.
On our way out of Orlando early in the morning, I was in need of something to get me through our flight. That’s when we happened upon Zaza in the airport. Well, in truth, it seemed to be the only place with decent coffee for my traveling companions. Nonetheless, as soon as I saw they had a Vaca con Queso sandwich I knew I had to make it mine.
Somehow amongst the chain restaurants in Orlando, Havana’s Cuban Cuisine has managed to carve out a spot to give people a taste of the communist nation just south of Florida. With some great reviews, we had some high expectations for the place and these expectations were almost immediately met when they brought us out some complimentary crisp, savory and oiled up plantains.
Typically, I’m not much a sweets guy. Give me a choice between cake and burger and I will always choose the burger. Well, almost always. Sometime ago, I was introduced to a Cuban bakery called Porto’s in Burbank when someone brought me some of their delicious pastries. I fell in love instantly and ever since then I have had a dream to visit this place of pastry delights. In time, I learned that they were not simply a sweets shop and also messed around with the savory end of the taste chain. This only fueled my desire for Porto’s even more. Finally, I got my opportunity to head there for lunch and went off full of excitement.
Having annihilated half of a chicken a few days earlier at Medieval Times, my insatiable desire for meat drew me towards another half-chicken. This time it was at Versailles, a Cuban restaurant in Palms. (I really have no idea how a Cuban place is named after a French Palace…)
The menu at Versailles is an unvegan dream. Sure, there is a “Vegetarian Plates” section, but it seems to be placed as an afterthought, just to appease the poor vegetarian crowd. Otherwise, Versailles is essentially all meat, all the time. Because of this, it took me a really long time to decide what I wanted. In the end, I went with what seemed the safest and had the most catchy name, Versailles Famous Garlic Chicken. This is an entire half-chicken, with fried plantains and my choice of rice and beans or moro (a combination of rice and beans that makes me wonder why the distinction exists).