The incredible culinary cultures of Asia and Cuba have come together in three global cities. The international legacy of Asia de Cuba, which has now reached New York, London, and Abu Dhabi, all started with one talented chef in Havana.
Cuban native Luis Pous beat the odds to kick-start his career as a chef in Cuba. Every year only a few aspiring chefs were selected to train at the National School of Culinary Arts in Havana, and Pous secured a coveted spot. During his training he was specifically chosen to cook for numerous diplomats and foreign dignitaries. He lived in Havana until moving to Miami in 1997, where he was the chef at numerous haute restaurants.
Pous returned to his roots in Havana when creating the concept for Asia de Cuba. While we might think of ‘Chinatown’ as being acquired to cities like New York and San Francisco, Havana actually has one of the oldest and largest in Latin America. This stems all the way back to the late 19th century, when more than 150,000 Chinese people came to work the sugar and coffee plantations, many from Canton in the south. Due to similar climates Chinese immigrants were able to successfully grow their vegetables and produce in Cuban soil. The combination of their techniques, produce and recipes with Havana’s world-famous shellfish created quite the culinary landscape.
Thus the ‘Chino-Latino’ style was born. Chinese traditions found their way into Cuban cooking and vice versa. Havana’s Chinatown or “Barrio Chino” began to boom with new restaurants and cafes to cater to the Chinese population, reaching its peak in the 1950s. However, due to limited access to ingredients, this culinary evolution in Cuba came to a halt in the 1960s.
Today, Chef Pous pays homage to the glory days of the Chino-Latino culinary culture in Cuba. Asia de Cuba is his take on what Asian influenced Cuban cooking may have evolved into today.
Let’s begin our culinary journey across continents right in New York City. This Asia De Cuba, located in Soho, is by far the most formal. It is the perfect spot to impress a client you’ve been trying to close that casual million-dollar deal. The ambiance and service could not be more pristine and professional. They have somehow managed to make a grand venue have an intimate feel, in part due to the warmth and welcome of their attentive staff.
Their crispy calamari salad is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. The beautifully battered calamari is in the mix with banana, chayote, cashews, hearts of palm, and orange-sesame vinaigrette. This creation exemplifies Asia De Cuba’s ability to take a dish seen on many menus, and turn it into something innovative, creative, and unexpectedly delicious. Pair this with their staple snapper ceviche starter, and unforgettable shrimp churros. Close it off with a melt-in-your-mouth rocoto blazed black cod and their tres leches de chocolate dessert to round out the perfect Asia De Cuba New York experience.
While the New York outpost may be the ultimate outing for some formal food, London leads the way for trendy folk looking for a fun night out. This Asia De Cuba, located in the quirky and eccentric St.Martins Lane Hotel, is definitely London’s go-to spot for a good time. The ambiance and décor are dark and playful, making it the perfect place to start a haute night out.
You can’t miss Asia de Cuba classics like their Chino Latino with mojo roasted lechon, jasmine rice, bean sprouts, egg, and edamame, and the Mojo Duck Confit with brown rice, orange, thai basil, thai chili, poached egg. Don’t forget to go with a big appetite! Since you’re in London opt for their most sophisticated cocktails like the Maduros Old Fashioned ron zacapa 23yr rum, flor de caña rum, maduros, and bitters. It’s Asia de Cuba, you can’t go wrong!
The grandest location of them all has to be in Abu Dhabi. This Asia de Cuba, located on the Corniche, is much larger than the New York and London restaurants. Enter into a beautiful bar and lounge area, which leads into their main dining room, and ends in a stunning outdoor patio on the water.
The menu, because it’s in the Middle East, slightly differs from the traditional ones found in New York and London. Here the pork usually found in chicharrones or their Chino Latino, is replaced with chicken chicharrones and lamb. It is a surprisingly amazing combination. Abu Dhabi’s beautiful weather calls for some fresh cocktails and ceviches. Our haute favorites have to be the local favorite Ditch Street with havana club 3yr rum, mezcal, jalapeño honey, ginger, and lime, and the light passion fruit flavored salmon ceviche. End your meal watching the sunset over the water and sampling their new incredibly moist and delicious coconut cake!
Check out some haute plates here!