Nov 24 2012

Asia de Cuba

I went to Asia de Cuba on a Saturday night as we were having a catch up dinner with my LSE friends. The last time (and the only time) I had been to Asia de Cuba before was about 5 years ago for lunch, and I remember it used to be one of the IT places to go to in London, and people would really be super keen to go there a few years ago Unfortunately it seems like the hype around the place has died and I can't remember really anyone mentioning the place before my LSE friends decided to go there for dinner. But I was wrong and clearly people go there as the place was full and buzzing when we arrived, with every single table occupied. The restaurant is located in St Martin's Hotel which is very trendy and modern, on the edge of Covent Garden and the restaurant is very cool, on 2 levels, one level about a metre higher than the other one, and the walls are decorated with pictures. St Martin's Hotel also hosts Bungalow 8 night club which used to be the place to go to. The menu is very interesting and as the name suggests it serves Cuban and Asia food, and you can see a lot of the Latin influence (not just Cuban, but also Mexican, Peruvian etc), as the menu features ceviches, Latin cocktails, but you do also feel the Asian influence (Thai beef salad, Coconut sea bass), although less so, and the menu also features some staples like steak (which I guess are an Argentinian influence). And as I love both Latin and Asian food, usually I love these type of places, but unfortunately Asia de Cuba did not. The menu is supposed to be sharing, but unfortunately the waiter did not really properly explain this to us until the very end when we realized ordering a starter and a main for each may have been a bit too much food (and considering the dishes are very expensive it would have been nice to be told and pay less). As a starter I shared the ceviche tasting, which had all 4 ceviches Asia de Cuba had served in smaller sizes, which included the ceviche with “grouper, deville orange and aji Amarillo”, the ceviche with “prawn, snapper and confit watermelon”, “the Scottish salmon and salted avocado helado (ice cream)” ceviche and “curry kingfish and passion fruit” ceviche. As you can see the ceviches were fusion ceviches and not really traditional and 3 out of 4 had fruits in them, which is quite unusual, and I have not really seen it anywhere else. The ceviches were accompanied by these plantain crisps and these breads made as crisps, which were nice and I did use them to get the sauce out of the ceviches. I did think they were nice, but none of them really blew me away, and I do prefer the traditional Peruvian ceviches. And also a constant theme with this place is that the restaurant really overcharges you, and for these 4 small ceviches we had to pay £28, which is just very punchy. My friend Eric had the kingfish ceviche, a larger plate of it. My friend Amala had the Thai beef salad, which had a lot of salad leaves and it was huge and clearly intended for sharing among more than just 1 person. It also had some avocado, shredded coconut, orange segments in the salad. I did taste it and though it was nice, but I do prefer the Thai beef salads in the Thai restaurants as there the dressing is more tasty and more spicy and just has more character to it. This salad seemed a bit bland. Chantelle and Lisa had the pan seared jumbo sea scallops, they did seem nice, I did not try them, but once again paying £16.5 for 2 scallops is just super painful. As a main course I decided to go for the coconut Chilean sea bass, which came with a jumbo lump crab and corn flan and chimichurri vegetables. The sea bass was quite boring, I could not really taste the coconut influence at all, and  though the crab and corn flan was actually egg, it tasted like mushy egg, and I did not like that. The chimichurri vegetables were also just a bit boring, and overall I did not eat  much of this dish, as I did not really enjoy it that much. Ashley and Amala had the free range Cuban BBQ chicken served with “Thai coconut sticky rice, avocado cilantro fruit salsa and tamarind sauce”, and I did like his chicken it was juicy and tasty, but I did not really like the salsa and I don't know how it went with the chicken. The Thai coconut rice (note I had also ordered some of this for myself) was nicely presented in a banana leaf but it was so hard pressed together, it was not fluffy rice at all and rather a rice cube that you had to break away to eat. I had also ordered the side dish of “bamboo steamed Asian and Caribbean vegetables”, and these vegetables had just been put in the bamboo steamer and steamed no more creative thought had gone into this dish (they had not even seasoned them with a tiny bit of salt). Eric and Chantelle had the miso cured black cod served with edamame "fufu" and grilled shishito peppers. The peppers were just like pardon peppers, just without the salt and any flavour, and even though I did not taste the cod, I have to remark that it was more expensive than the black cod in Zuma, and even though as I say I did not taste it, it did not look as great as the black cod in Zuma. Lisa had the steak, “Cuban coffee crusted rib eye which was served with yucca mayo fries and mandarin orange and gingered sherry butter”. I did not try the steak, but it looked nice, but it was huge and should have been meant for sharing. The fries looked nicely seasoned and very tempting. Another side dish that we got was plantain fried rice with avocado salad, and I have to admit that it was delicious and I had a lot of this rice (I did not order this myself so I kept stealing this from Eric who had ordered it). The only person that had desert was the skinniest of us all, Amala, and he ordered the desert called "Cuban Opera" which had “rich chocolate cake layered with milk chocolate butter cream, coffee mouse with coffee brittle ice cream”, and it looked very tempting and I did try some of it and it was delicious. Not only am I not a huge fan of this place because it is so superbly overpriced (and the annoying thing is they charge you 15% service charge instead of the already high that restaurants these days charge 12.5%), but also because it is just not the best Asian/Latin fusion food out there. Nobu that also does a similar thing (Japanese/ Peruvian fusion food) is much better and I also prefer Sushi Samba, another Asian/ Latin fusion food. None of the dishes really impressed me

Date: 24/11/12
Location: Covent Garden/ Trafalgar Square
Price per person, with alcohol and with 15% service charge: £90

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Asia de Cuba
45 Saint Martin's Lane WC2N 4HX
United Kingdom
Asia de Cuba Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 2