2016-05-25 / Restaurant of the Week

Sabor De CUBA

Astoria is sizzling with this Sabor de Cuba, an absolutely charming, festive restaurant featuring a modern fusion of Cuban and Caribbean flavors, accented by a sexy interior and fabulous drinks. Cuban cuisine is unique in the Caribbean, combining Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavors with the special spices and preparation that keep you wanting more. Owners Sandra and Willy welcome guests of all ages to their establishment, open seven days a week for lunch, dinner, and a “Boozy Brunch” on Sundays from 12-5pm.

I enjoyed my first visit to Sabor de Cuba so much, that I returned three nights later with three friends and had a fiesta along with several other families celebrating birthdays and graduations. The staff is friendly and efficient and Chef Carlos works his magic in the kitchen, preparing delectable dishes all printed on clever menus that are presented inside authentic Cuban cigar boxes. Sit back and enjoy a refreshing Mojito, a pitcher of fresh sangria (red or white), or something they coined a Sanjito, which is a delicious mix of sangria and passion fruit mojito.

We started with some tapas that are big enough to share and beautifully presented. The Cubanito is a mini Cuban sandwich filled with roasted pork, ham, cheese and pickle that can be shared by two ($11). Mofongitos de Mariel are made with mashed plantains that house an adobo-infused mix of seafood including shrimp, calamari, and baby squid ($14). One of the most unique surprises was the Arepa con cola, composed of a mini corn cake base, topped with slow-cooked oxtail and a dainty fried quail egg for a combination of tastes and textures I guarantee you’ve never had before. House made empanadas are filled with either beef, chicken, or vegetables and mild spices so you’ll definitely want to order a sampling of those. By the way, you can enjoy these savory tapas at the inviting bar or at your table.

Next, the dinner entrees include traditional Cuban fare, such as Chef Carlos’ exemplary Ropa Vieja, which literally means ‘old clothes’ and consists of slow-cooked, pulled beef, green olives, and mild spices that make this dish so unique and delicious. It is served in a cast iron skillet along with a generous helping of black beans and rice that I took home for lunch the next day ($16.95). My beau’s pork chop was a caveman-sized affair, brined and marinated for two days, rendering the meat so tender, it simply pulled away from the bone with a tug of his fork. My friend had never seen such a big, meaty chicken, cooked into the classic Arroz con Pollo, which he devoured con gusto. Grilled skirt steak is another popular meat item on the menu, as is the roasted pork pernil sandwich.

Sabor de Cuba does an outstanding job with fresh fish and seafood. Camarones al ajillo are jumbo shrimp cooked in a fragrant garlic sauce scented with cilantro and served with decadently delicious fried plantains. The Pescado Cubano is perfectly cooked Mahi Mahi over sweet, creamy coconut rice with passionfruit sauce and plantains which was so flavorful and beautifully executed ($20.95). Fresh, grilled salmon is served with cassava puree and asparagus in roasted red pepper sauce for a bold combination of flavors and colors. Order an avocado salad to share along with a bottle of red or white wine from their well-chosen, reasonably priced wine list.

Everything at Sabor de Cuba is made from scratch, including the tempting desserts. Perhaps the most popular is the tres leches cake made with three types of milk, as the name suggests, drizzled with homemade caramel sauce. Castro de chocolate is a kind of moussey lava cake and the bread pudding is topped with Brandy anglaise sauce. Do I have to mention how good the coffee is? The classic cortadito is rich and robust and will keep you going long after your meal.

Friday nights are great nights to visit when live music fills the air. Sunday’s “Boozy Brunch” runs from noon until 5pm and for $27.95 you’ll choose among Cuban omelets with bacon, ham, and Swiss cheese, Sabor de Cuba’s version of eggs Benedict with corn bread, eggs, and pernil, and seafood frittata with shrimp, calamari, and avocado, to name a few. Unlimited Mimosas, Bellinis, or Sangria are included in the price with a 1-5-hour limit.

For a high quality meal and great cocktails and wine in a very chic and festive environment, visit Sabor de Cuba for modern Cuban fusion cuisine that sizzles with flavor and sass.

37-03 31st Avenue
Astoria  718.777.1693


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