Article by Daniel Vézina originally published in the November-April 2019-2020 edition of the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
Celebrity Quebec chef Daniel Vézina gives us a taste of Cuban cuisine
To create dishes inspired by Cuban flavours for the popular French-Canadian cooking show Les chefs!, my brigade of aspiring chefs and I travel to Cuba’s vivacious capital, Havana. Here, we steep ourselves in its colourful and diverse cuisine at its many bustling markets and vibrant restaurants. Here are some of our favourite spots.
1- Farmers’ market in the Vedado neighbourhood
Calle 17, between D and F
The fruit and vegetable stands at markets can always tell you a lot about the influences of a local cuisine. And this farmers’ market is no exception. This is where the locals come to shop, and here, you’ll find mountains of yuca, a tuber native to South America, papaya, pineapple and plantains, all dominant flavours in Cuban cuisine.
2- La Guarida
This mythical restaurant gained fame as the setting of the 1993 Oscar-nominated film Fresa y Chocolate. And it certainly looks like it’s straight out of a movie: behind the crumbling facade of a colonial building, at the top of a grand staircase. But its charm doesn’t stop there: its octopus carpaccio, hake tacos, tuna tartare and coriander ceviche prove to be truly delightful… and inspirational for our chefs.
4- El del Frente
No one does happy hour like El del Frente. This is where the classic Cuban mojito lives up to its hype. But don’t leave without also taking a swig (or two) of the mango and rum cocktail. Come for happy hour, stay for dinnertime and order the lime and coriander fish ceviche, or the fish and guacamole tacos, or the bajji with pickled red onions and tomatillos. And indulge in it all on the rooftop terrace, where you can soak up the colourful views of Old Havana.
Calle 38 #118
In the chic neighbourhood of Miramar is where you’ll find one of Havana’s best-kept secrets, TocaMadera (touch wood). We grab a wooden table at its rustic indoor courtyard and tuck into food that is a fusion of Cuban, European, African and Asian: mushroom and truffle risotto, tuna tataki, torched beef with Creole and Mediterranean flavours, and chicken pasta with manchego cheese sauce. Before we leave, the owner treats us to Cuban cigars and excellent Santiago de Cuba amber rum. ¡Salud!
La Havana has a lot to offer. See for yourself, book your direct flight to La Havana now with Air Transat!