My plane hit the tarmac at 8pm and after zig-zagging through the Miami Airport I hopped in a car bound for Little Havana. Back in Toronto, my friend Alejandro who grew up in Miami was helpful in connecting me with his friend Nick, who that evening would act as my Cuban Cuisine Spirit Guide. The first to-do on my Miami itinerary was to feast on the city’s quintessential culinary offering, a sampling of authentic Cuban eats at Versailles Restaurant.
Dubbed “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant,” Versailles has been serving tasty Cuban cuisine and culture for four decades. Soon after it opened its doors in 1971, Versailles quickly became the gathering place and unofficial town square for Miami’s Cuban exiles. It was almost 9pm when we arrived at the front door and I was happy to see the restaurants dining room packed full of local families. Versailles pays homage to the razzle dazzle of France’s favourite palace, featuring ceiling to floor mirrors and twinkling chandelier.
The menu here is nothing short of a Cuban Culinary Bible and takes some time to adventure through. Our waiter brought a jug of red sangria to quench our thirst while Nick ran through the restaurants offerings being sure to point out his favourite dishes. Thirty minutes after making our selection a parade of steaming plates arrived under our noses.
Having recently spent a week gallivanting across Cuba I was intrigued to see how the food here differed from what is currently available on the island. Night and day. I sampled through three different mountains of rice which tasted of juicy pork fat. In fact everything at Versailles is crispy, fatty and addictive. Be sure to leave your Weight Watchers calorie counting at the door. My favourite of the evening was the kitchens take on Cordon Bleu: a deep fried breaded chicken breast stuffed with sweet ham and stringy cheese covered in a white wine bechamel and served with salty yellow rice and sweet plantain. The Roast Pork is a must, marinated with Cuban mojo the crispy crackling adds a nice crunch to the boiled yuca which accompanies the dish.
As I sipped the remains of my mojito two desserts plopped onto the table. I let out a wee painful chirp (my gut was ballooning rapidly) but of course found the room to carry on the marathon. My final memory at Versailles, a sweet ode to eggs featuring Natilla (creme brulee meets pound cake) and Cubana Flan.
Stuffed Green Plantains
shrimps creole, pineapple, cilantro
Chicken Cordon Bleu
breaded chicken breast stuffed with ham + cheese, white wine bechamel, yellow rice, sweet plantains
Roast Pork Cuban Style
marinated with cuban mojo and slow oven roasted, moros rice, boiled yuca with mojo
shredded beef cooked with garlic, onions, bell peppers, wine and tomato sauce
creme brulee with pound cake