Asia de Cuba's New Cuban Sushi; Can You Say Paella Rolls?
Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian Hotel in South Beach takes its fusion cuisine seriously. A new menu expresses the provocative flavors of both parts of its name. Cuban cuisine prepared with Asian techniques is the forte here, and a ceviche and raw bar has been added.
The night started off with paella rolls topped with chorizo and blue crab meat rolls. Not typical sushi fare, but that's normal for a restaurant that doesn't want to fit the mold.
"Our sushis are unique as well," said Luke Rinaman, China Grill Management's corporate chef and the man behind the menu, "a lot of cooked things--you can get raw tuna rolls anywhere else and we didn't want to compete with that. So we decided to make Cuban sushi, if there is such a thing."
The main themes on the menu are acid, pepper and onion. The proteins of the ceviche mixed with the acid in an aperitif meant to get the digestive juices flowing, says Rinaman.
Each of the three varieties of ceviche is mixed with some spicy element -- the black grouper goes with horseradish, curry swordfish and passion fruit with coriander seeds, and wild salmon and salted avocado helado with spicy coconut milk.
Wait--salted avocado ice cream and fish together in the same dish? Now that's different.
Guess which one has ice cream?
The theme even extended to the signature drinks, like the Chili Passion Caipirinha that tasted like a sweet and spicy pepper. It's no wonder because it has a big fat red Fresno pepper for a garnish, and a slice of passion fruit too.
Mixmaster mixologist Angelo Vieira was there stirring up tsunami of fresh fruit mojitos, like the mango mojito and triple berry mojito with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. These drinks are healthier than his own diet.
Appetizers range from spiny lobster and hearts of palm cajou with cashews and sultanas ($23), to braised oxtail and kimchee steamed dumplings ($15), to crispy octopus ajillo ($15).
Spiny Lobster and Hearts of Palm Cajou
Crispy Octopus Ajillo
After the sushi, ceviche, cocktails and appetizers came entrees. Three varieties of meat are covered: Gambas Gigantes Mai Tai (giant shrimp, $48), Cuban Coffee Crusted Rib Eye (beef, $49), and Chicken Milanasia (and, uh, chicken--$25). They were all delicious, of course, but the ribeye was a pure win because it also included yuca mojo fries (now that's Cuban).
Gambas Gigantes spiced with Thai curry
The final course consisted of three desserts: Piña y crema vanilla cheesecake resting on passion fruit, Caribbean carrot cake, and the Cuban Opera devil's food cake. If you make it this far, you'll be on the verge of slipping into a food coma, but the sugar in the heap of dessert ought to keep you buzzed enough to pull through.
Cuban food or Asian food? Don't think about it too much, just try it out. After 15 years of a menu that has been more or less the same, the execs at China Grill management knew it was time to up the ante. The re-imagined menu you see here is only part of more to come.
"Everyone is into ceviche these days," says Rinaman, "we wanted to try something new and refreshing."
Oh American coffee, thy humble savior.
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