My girlfriend took me to this place as part of her birthday gift to me on Friday, the 15ht of June. I am a Cuban-American, born in NYC, and was looking forward to trying out this place. I live in Nassau, and I love Long Beach, so I was hoping to make this a regular place for us.
Getting the seating for us and another couple was no problem. I want to begin by saying how really courteous the staff was. They were young, and very polite and ebullient. The sound level in this place was off the meter. It was really loud, requiring us to literally shout at each other to be heard, and upon leaving I had gotten a headache. Then again it was Saturday night, so I can't imagine it being this way every evening.
The ham croquetas were, well, for lack of a better term...gross. My vocabulary is not limited so much so that I couldn't find another word to describe it, it's just the gross fits best, and I'm not trying to be mean here. We placed an order for two, but after I took a bite from one right away cancelled the second order. Croquestas are supposed to be pinkish on the inside with an almost fluffy texture that tends to melt in ones mouth. What we were served was dark grey, and a very thick texture which required me to chew through it at least 12 times to swallow. The taste was not even close to what a croqueta should be, so I immediately told everyone in the group not to eat it and to not even attempt so. My girlfriend has had them with me, but the other couple never had, and I didn't want their first impression to be completely skewed.
I need to next speak about the experience I had with Ropa Vieja. Horrible. I knew it form the smell when it was placed in front of me. It had a steamed god-awful scent. I gave it the benefit of the doubt by tasting it but the flavor was the same from the steamy, non ropa vieja-ish taste. Again, not even close to what a traditional plate of RV is supposed to be. From my grandmother, to my mother and to Cuban eateries I've been to more than once such as Asia De Cuba, Victors Cafe in Manhattan to Gloria Estefan's Madres' in Miami and even the Rey De Las Fritas franchise in Little Havana MIA....the formula is a simple one, for God's sake it's a home-brewed country dish how can the Croc get it this wrong? It tasted like microwave-shredded beef with a low grade marinara-ish sauce.
What they did get right was the white rice and black beans; it's the only thing I ate from my dish. The waiter noticed I had not eaten, and asked me if everything was alright. I had recently had surgery in my throat to remove a few nodules, so speaking was difficult for me. I did whisper to him only after he insisted on knowing that I did not like the dish. He was then kind enough to remove it from the bill. For his instinctive and awareness to the needs of a customer, I give him a ton of Kudos.
The evening took an interesting turn when an older short-haired blonde woman who appeared to be a manager approached our table. She was walking towards us after she appeared to be receiving accolades from other patrons, and appeared very jovial while receiving thank you after thank you from them. She asked me if everything was alright. I then attempted to speak to her but my throat seized a bit with a twinge of pain, so I facially looked at her and nodded with a so-so kind of look. It took her all of half a second to discard my meaning and immediately turned to another member of our party and said: "well he's not going to tell me so I'll just ask you, how is everything"? I guess since I didn't give her thumbs up fast enough I didn't matter and what she did to me was beyond rude. She went and got her approval from someone else in my group, making me out to be some kind of chump. If she's so sure of how great this restaurant is, why does she need to ask the patrons? Perhaps if she were more open to some constructive criticism, then some positive changes could be made to the menu. I only regret not being able to speak at the moment she came by. Not because I was going to fire off a rant, but because I was ready to congratulate her for opening a Cuban place closer to me followed by a well-mannered opinion on my entree.
So my hopes for s decent Cuban food eatery were dashed. I was willing to give this place another try, thinking that it may have just been a bad night, but I don't think I will, and that's because of the way I was treated. Then again, I am only one person, and perhaps I am biased because I have been to Cuban places that have had some absolutely great tasting dishes. What I will do to get a better idea is ask the various members of the groups I belong to (NYC Cuban Culture Meetup, Untied Latino Professionals, and the Cuban Artists Fund) to quietly go ahead and give it a try. Apart from the various projects, topics and Cuban-related issues we discuss, food always seems to be on our top three...LOL.
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