2018-03-14 / Restaurant of the Week

Sabor De CUBA

Shake off the winter blues at Sabor de Cuba where the fiesta is always on. On a recent, snowy evening, the warmth of the dining room, rhythmic Cuban music, and tantalizing aromas immediately start to soothe you. The charming décor, punctuated with art and artifacts from Cuba, is sultry and comfortable. There are banquettes and tables that can accommodate couples and small groups, and indeed, Sabor de Cuba provides the ideal ambience for many festive birthday dinners and celebrations.

You don’t even need a special occasion, with Sabor de Cuba’s Happy Hour from 12pm to 7pm daily. You’ll see the list outside, and on weekends, the front doors open to the street as live music fills the air. We started with the signature “Sanjito,” a delightful concoction of wine, passion fruit, lemon and mint while the mojitos and margaritas quench your thirst. Order a pitcher of red or white sangria full of chopped fruit for your table and let the fun begin. All the cocktails, wines, and beer selections are printed on a wine bottle set on your table, and the menu is cleverly presented to you inside authentic Cuban cigar boxes. Your host, Sandra, is part of the fiesta and greets her guests like family.

Everything at Sabor de Cuba is made from scratch, and presented like artwork, making a meal here a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. We started with tempting appetizers or “tapas” that are big enough to share and beautifully presented. First came a trio of empanadas, filled with chicken, beef, and vegetables, beautifully presented on a black plate with some spicy dipping sauce. I could eat these every day. We loved the unique Arepa con cola, composed of a mini corn cake called “arepa” topped with slow-cooked oxtail and a dainty fried quail egg for a combination of tastes and textures that will delight you as you pop one in your mouth ($12). Fritas Cubanas are Cuban style sliders made with ground beef and chorizo sausage that could serve as a light meal on their own along with a gazpacho (cold soup) of avocado, tomato, carrots, onions and arugula. Croquetas are full of savory ham and mild seasonings, fried into crispy morsels that are ideal for sharing ($10). Everyone loves the crispy rings of calamari with a slightly spicy dipping sauce and macitos de cerdo, crispy fried cubes of tender pork with mojo sauce. Mofongitos de Mariel are made with mashed plantains that house an adobo-infused mix of seafood including shrimp, calamari, and baby squid ($14).

Cuban cuisine includes lots of meat, poultry and fish dishes, due to the diversity of the island country. A classic Cuban dish called Ropa Vieja, which literally means “old clothes,” 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 ($18.95). Shrimp in fragrant garlic sauce never fails to please, and it’s served here with tostones and avocado. Grilled salmon or the mahi are great fish options. My friend loved the Pescado Habana which was perfectly cooked, flaky mahi, served with sweet, toothsome, coconut rice and sweet plantains. I went for meat this time and had a juicy pork chop with teriyaki glaze, served with fried cassava that resembles potatoes. Order paella for you and your companion and indulge in the savory rice cooked with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, cray fish, scallops and chorizo. There’s arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and chicken breast stuffed with chorizo sausage and plantains with a delectable sauce.

Sabor de Cuba has a weekday lunch from 10am to 3pm for just $10 with a different specialty each day of the week which includes oxtail, shredded beef, pork chop or fish fillet. You’ll see the line outside for Sunday Brunch, served from 12pm to 5pm at the low price of $19.95, which includes a brunch cocktail and entrées such as ropa vieja, grilled skirt steak and eggs, and seafood frittata.

Sweeten your palate with tres leches cake made with three types of milk, drizzled with homemade caramel sauce. Castro de chocolate is a delightfully decadent cake and the bread pudding is topped with brandy anglaise sauce. Of course the coffee, a classic cortadito, is just as you’d expect, rich and delicious.

Life is too short, and the food is just too good to pass up. Have your own little fiesta any day or night at Sabor de Cuba. Check out their website for a sizzling video and mouthwatering photos.

¡Buen provecho!

37-03 31st Avenue
Astoria  718.777.1693


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