March 30, 2007
1623 Walnut Street, Philadelphia 19103
At S 16th Street
Sweet Yucca Bread (complimentary)
Appetizer I: Fire and Ice Ceviche – fluke with preserved lemon, sage, hot garlic oil and crispy lemon rings ($12)
Appetizer II: Braised Oxtail Empanada – Panca Chile empanada dough, Cabrales fondue, truffled pea greens, and roasted Shitake mushrooms ($13)
Entree I: Domino Scallops – Seared diver scallops with squid ink, lemongrass rice, toasted coconut ($28)
Entree II: Oyster Rodriguez – crispy fried over fufu (mashed sweet plantains with bacon) sauteed spinach with horseradish and huacatay sauce ($14)
Dessert I: Chocolate Tres Leches – served with caramel expuma, vanilla poached oranges, and a salted caramel ice cream ($9)
Over the span of five days, my dear Luscious dined at Alma de Cuba three times. It’s her favorite restaurant in Philadelphia and Steven Starr isn’t opening up a satellite location in Honolulu anytime soon. I only joined Lush on day three of her Alma binge because palate fatigue is a real fear for me.
We started our meal with Alma’s delicious sweet yucca bread. The rolls were warm and served with a Chimichurri sauce. I left the sauce to Lush, because the bread is so good that it needs no accompaniments. As always, the rolls were a fantastic way to start our meal.
For the first appetizer we ordered our favorite ceviche—Fire and Ice. The delicate pieces of fluke felt cool in our mouths, while the lemon rings brought about a tinge of welcomed bitterness. The hot garlic oil poured atop the ceviche tableside was a nice, but unnecessary touch because the citrus flavors were dominant.
I chose the Braised Oxtail Empanada for our second appetizer. The portion was minuscule, but the flavor was quite strong. The dough was soft and buttery and the oxtail was succulent and satisfying. The adornments provided a nice contrast to the empanada—Luscious especially liked the lightly dressed pea greens.
Luscious had one of the evening’s specials for her entrée—Domino Scallops. Our waiter informed us that this dish will become a menu mainstay in the near future. Half of the scallops were coated in squid ink, while the others were au natural. While the dish was suitable, it did not elicit any oohs or ahs from Luscious, unlike the Sugarcane Tuna that she had the previous evening whose flavors “danced on [her] tongue.” She did comment that the jalapeño sauce was extraneous.
I ordered the Oysters Rodriguez, which is an appetizer, as my entrée. The combination of warm oysters with the sweet and salty fufu was excellent. Seriously, whoever thought up mashing sweet plantains with bacon is pure genius in my book.
Lastly, we shared the chocolate tres leches cake. The salted caramel ice cream was our favorite part because sweet and salty always go hand in hand. The cake was good too, but I was disappointed that the chocolate was more pronounced than the leches. I thought the vanilla poached oranges didn’t fit into the landscape of flavors.
Three dinners at Alma de Cuba was not enough to satisfy Lush’s insatiable appetite for Nuevo Latino cuisine. The following evening we went to Cuba Libre! I told you my friend was a good eater.