Cafe Cubano is not a cafe; nor Cuban. Chef Rakesh Talwar says he liked the ring of the name; it sounded like a place where people gathered and talked. The food is a melange of Indian food and old favorites presented with a twist. As Talwar says, “There is something for everyone.”
We started with the drinks. The Cubano Classic Margharita is a simple cocktail and hard to get wrong, and we were not disappointed. On the other hand, the Long Island Ice Tea, which has about five or six different ingredients, is harder to perfect — and Cafe Cubano needs to work on it. It was served in an interesting, if slightly insidious way, in what looked like saline or blood bags hung from metal racks. The drink itself tasted flat and a tad too sweet. The Mumbai Spice Mojito had cardamom, pepper and cinnamon and was very refreshing.
In the “Chotey Bites” section, the Peri Peri Paneer Bites were excellent. The paneer was soft and melted in our mouths. For those who like a little kick, the restaurant’s Tandoori Wasabi Broccoli is worth every bite—the wasabi flavor is just right. The “Chotey Bites” contain many chicken dishes. The Chicken 65 and the Ghati Masala Chicken Tikka were fail safe crowd pleasers but nothing exceptional.
In the “Sliders” section, we tried the Vada Pav Sliders, which come with a portion of fries. In a city that places high demands on vada pav, the sliders held up with their buttered sesame seed buns and spicy green chutney. The fries were well cooked and perfectly seasoned.
As a main course we chose the Dabba Bhaji, which was served in a metal bucket, and the Angaara Chicken. The bhaji was tasty and the chicken gravy was rich, spicy and flavorful. We had it with garlic naan and tandoori roti. The Dal Makhani was the only dish we tried and didn’t like – it was oddly sweet.
Looking at the deserts, we recommend to stay away from the tiramisu, whose consistency is rather heavy, like custard. But the chocolate mousse, another classic, was light, delicious and said to be excellent comfort food. The icing on the cake, however, was the Banofee Glass. Sliced banana, crumble and whipped cream made it a simple dessert, but the freshness was perfect after a heavy meal.
The decor of the restaurant was not memorable, but it was cozy enough. A warning about the different branches. Cafe Cubano’s branch in Vile Parle has different food – though still not Cuban. It’s a bit more “conservative” and family-friendly – the menu includes sizzlers, but not the sliders. But the Kemps Corner menu is so popular that Talwar is considering replicating the same for its Vile Parle branch.
Cafe Cubano is located on the ground floor, Habib Mansion, August Kranti Maidan, Kemps Corner, Mumbai
Meal for 2: Rs 2000 (excluding drinks)