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La Cubana

Posted by Jackie Pal / Reviewed on October 7, 2013 / review policy

La Cubana TorontoLa Cubana might be the greatest thing to ever happen to Cuban cuisine in Toronto. While Julie's Cuban has long been the go-to for Cuban specialties like ropa vieja, fried green plantains and mojitos (before they were mainstream) in Toronto, it's about time that other restaurants and neighbourhoods picked up the slack.

Enter Roncesvalles where stroller happy families and hungry creative types can rejoice as La Cubana has finally opened its doors to its Cuban inspired outpost in a space that Blue Plate most recently called home. The talented Corinna Mozo of Delux has opened this Cuban snack diner as a commemoration to the lunch counter her grandfather owned in Havana prior to the revolution.

The vibe is electric and soothing, as symphonic brass coupled with the cooing vocals of Celia Cruz, tempts us to get on our feet and see what our hips are made of. A six year old boy swings his legs to the beat, sipping a glass of milk. Next to him, his father casually downs a pre-revolution Cuban inspired cocktail.

La Cubana TorontoLa Cubana captures the essence of unassuming diners of the past, pulling from Havana's rich history of design to create a bright and inviting space. Moorish mosaic floors are brought to life by teal subway tiling. Back-lit plexiglass signage, built into each wall, displays typical Spanish menu offerings in bold red type. And classic camel plush banquettes contrast against white tabletops that will likely be a shade or two darker after Roncesvalles offspring have their way with them.

La Cubana TorontoWe start off with cocktails. The Periodista ($10) is an extremely stiff and memorable libation with balanced notes of apricot and lime, perfectly mixed with white rum and Triple Sec. The Mojito ($10) is a classic interpretation although it perhaps could use more sugar.

La Cubana TorontoThe Habanero Glazed Fried Squid ($7) sounds too good to pass up and is delectably crunchy and sweet, but missing the heat of the habanero.

La Cubana TorontoCraving lighter fare, we opt for the Jicama Salad ($6). Slivers of fresh radish, apple and cucumbers are beautifully laid on top of very green bib lettuce. Unfortunately, the one-dimensional dressing leaves me wanting a punchier aftertaste.

La Cubana TorontoA side of worth-a-second-order Yucca Frites ($4) is sprinkled with bold paprika and cooled down by a drizzle of lemon mojo (a classic Cuban sauce).

La Cubana TorontoFrom the sandwich and medianoche board, we order the Grilled Fish Sandwich ($8); a generous piece of Georgian Bay white fish, squeezed between a soft house made milk bun and slices of ripe avocado, slaw and cubed pineapple. It's bright and packed with complementing flavours.

La Cubana is open everyday from 11am until late. They offer lunch, dinner, brunch (on weekends) and shortly a to-go menu that will be served straight from their front window.

La Cubana TorontoOne can only hope that one day when the tikes are tucked into bed, La Cubana will continue the fun and capitalize on one of the most amazing facets of Cuban culture - music and dance, turning their little space, into a late-night bumping dance bar.



TJ / October 7, 2013 at 08:32 am
There's probably a shortage of Cuban restaurants/foods because there isn't a huge Cuban population in the GTA (relatively speaking) and the fact of the matter is that Cuban food is probably the worst part of any vacation to Cuba.
RG / October 7, 2013 at 09:14 am
cuban food is wonderful-any all-inclusive in any country does a poor job of the local food...don't paint a cuisine by a sears travel standard....
Chris replying to a comment from TJ / October 7, 2013 at 09:17 am
Except that when folks go to Cuba for vacation, they rarely ever eat actual Cuban food - it's usually all-inclusive buffet style crap that bears no resemblance to real Cuban food, unless of course you think an all you can eat pasta bar is "Cuban". Only the most dimwitted tourist would actually think that what they've eaten at their all-inclusive resort is real Cuban food.

Honestly, comparing the Cuban food you get at resorts in Cuba to the food that Cubans actually cook and eat at home or in restaurants is like comparing Taco Bell to real Mexican food.

You really ought to get out more.

duder replying to a comment from Chris / October 7, 2013 at 11:09 am
While it's true that the food you'd find in a Cuban home/restaurant is leaps and bounds better than anything you'd ever find at an all-inclusive, but in all fairness - having travelled fairly extensively in Cuba - the best Cuban food in my opinion is in the Miami/South Florida area. Mostly due to the fact that the quality of the ingredients is better. Same story with Mexican food in San Diego vs. Tijuana.
Chris replying to a comment from duder / October 7, 2013 at 11:22 am
Well, that's nice for you. Doesn't really change the point of my post though. I wasn't commenting on where the best Cuban food was found - I was just responding to TJ's criticisms of Cuban food by pointing that the food at a Cuban all-inclusive was not indicative of Cuban food, wherever it's made.

So if it helps, I'll modify my comment to say that suggesting that the food at a Cuban all-inclusive resort in any way resembles what Cubans living in Cuba or South Florida prepare at home or in restaurants is akin to suggesting that Taco Bell is indicative of Mexican food, from Mexico or San Diego.

Feel better now?
Another Chris / October 7, 2013 at 11:30 am
Went for brunch this weekend and had the chorizo hash. I was really happy with it, and the service from the staff. I've never tried Yuca before but it was an pleasant change from using potatoes.

And although I realize its not Cuban, but I wish I could have had a Caesar that morning. Can't win em all I suppose.
Andy / October 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm
We went to La Cubana last week on their second day open. The food was delicious, the service very friendly and the atmosphere super light, adding to the fact that they stay open late. I'm so glad we have this restaurant close to home now.
Kyle / October 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm
Been to Delux quite a few times for lunch and love the avocado sandwich & rice & beans. Glad to have both of those on this menu too. This menu has even more things veggie and those yucca frites are SO GOOD. Vegan stuff, not so much unless you skip the cheese & dips with things. Also had the corn fritters & would definitely order them again. Meat eating friends were very happy with the selections. Can't wait to go back.
Phil / October 7, 2013 at 05:52 pm
Disappointing brunch. Great service and coffee. Perfect eggs. But flavours are missing with mostly bland brunch fare. Hot sauce
Phil / October 7, 2013 at 05:57 pm
Hot sauce was tasty but couldn't save the hash or sandwich. Hash was really a plate of different items - not real Cuban hash, nor Canadian hash for that matter. Delux is solid so I will return to Roncy and try again in a month or so.
jameson / October 7, 2013 at 07:06 pm
Honestly the all inclusive comment is relevant. Even a mexican all inclusive will have at least one decent mexican item to eat. whereas at cuban all inclusive there literally won't be anything decent to eat at all

But seriously, I don't think that's a result of cuban food being bad as it is poor business skills by the hotel operators.

i will definitely check out this restaurant! nice to see something new on roncey!
emily replying to a comment from Chris / October 7, 2013 at 07:17 pm
I don't think it's so much taco bell as a continental buffet here - sort of mediocre, trying to appeal to a broad range of palates (meaning bland), prioritizing production process over ingredients, etc. It is what it is but Cuba simply isn't a food destination the way parts of SE asia and europe are.
Sandman / October 7, 2013 at 07:28 pm
Great addition to the 'hood -- planning to check it out!

But, not a fan of the interior decor
Char / October 7, 2013 at 09:21 pm
Do you want great Cuban food? Go to Miami and try Padrino's(Hallandale Beach Blvd)or Versailles in Southwest Miami (Calle Ocho)
tnt replying to a comment from Char / October 8, 2013 at 09:05 am
Ummm....'fraid it might be too pricey a night...
Pedro / October 9, 2013 at 02:02 am
Any body come to my house I will invating those who want to eat Cuban food
brian / October 9, 2013 at 09:51 am
really great food! i wish i had a bigger stomach to try more. incredibly friendly staff and great choices of drinks.
Andrew / October 10, 2013 at 12:42 am
Do they do a basic Cuban sandwich? Haven't found one an amazing one in Toronto yet.
Matt replying to a comment from Andrew / October 10, 2013 at 07:52 pm
Yep. They sure do. I had one to go yesterday and it was fantastic.
Carmen / November 26, 2013 at 11:24 am
Love the ambiance but as a Cuban, I wasn't impressed with the food. I wouldn't recommend it to someone looking for Cuban food.
K / December 21, 2013 at 11:34 am
We went last night, looking for drinks and food with friends. Service was really good and the food even better. I had the pork shoulder dinner which had variety, all of it very good (though I agree with other comments that there could be a little more kick and heat). Also enjoyed a couple nacional cocktails, while other enjoyed the home brewed La Cubana pilsner. I also heard the fish sandwich was tasty.
The decor is good, but as it was late we were a little hesitant at first because it seems too much like an afternoon diner and was missing a bit of the ambience we were looking for. But still had an awesome time!
Overall, it's an exciting and different addition to the roncy food scene and I want to try brunch really soon.
Mac / January 21, 2014 at 10:50 am
Julie's Cuban; food, atmosphere and service are all brilliant.
MV replying to a comment from Chris / January 22, 2014 at 09:41 am
At what point did the original poster say he was referring to all-inclusives? He said vacation, that's it. Judging by the level of snark in your posts, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess you're not the most socially inept or popular person with friends, family and coworkers. Take a deep breath and get a grip.
Helen / June 15, 2014 at 09:11 am
to add to old comments about cuban food in cuba.. people seem pretty ignorant here. i travelled in cuba about 4 years ago (the real cuba, not resorts which in no way resembles the real cuba!) and stayed with cuban families in their homes. i also ate meals that they prepared. cuban food generally is not very good in cuba due to the US embargo in the country. it is difficult for cubans to get ingredients, and food can be scarce. they have to make do with what is available, and that means it has shaped the way food is prepared now in cuba. the embargo makes other supplies scarce too, such as toothpaste, medical supplies, etc.

traditional cuban food is probably very good but as someone mentioned, you have to go outside to cuba (especially florida) - and hey, maybe the food at la cubana is one of them!
Helen / June 15, 2014 at 09:14 am
if you go to cuba, also steer clear of the horrible food in state-run restaurants (which is any restaurant that is not in someone's home). the worst stuff ever. actually staying at a cuban resort means you will get some of the best food in the country (yes, that says a lot about the food situation in cuba), aside from the food you can find at paladares (restaurants that are run out of someone's home).. but even then, there is the issue of scarcity of ingredients. i did have food in one woman's home in trinidad (a lovely town in cuba) that was delicious.. miracuously, she had a lot of decent ingredients so i think she must have had a good underground source somehow.
Audrey / June 16, 2014 at 12:01 pm
my husband makes the best Cubano food - the resorts don't hit the mark - check out restaurants in Havana - there are good ones....

Even better get to know Cubans - the home cooked meals are amazing and delicious.

Don't jump to conclusions based on what you eat at buffet at any resort.

Mathew Syrokomla / September 16, 2014 at 07:45 pm
During the recent Polish Festival on Roncesvalles (2014) I noticed the restaurant even set up a patio but what was really missing there was the Cuban ambiance: it's a cold, run-of-the mill snack bar, not even one of the dozen employees speaking Spanish! I've visited that place a few times and every time I was told the owner (the only Cuban) was not present. During the September Polish event there were Latin musicians not far away but not even one salsa, or casino, or rumba, or son, or reggaton at the "CUBAN RESTAURANT"! ¡Qué pena! I cannot visualize a Cuban place without Cuban dance or music. At least you could slip a disc in the stereo to add a little to the "Cuban" atmosphere.
Mathew Syrokomla / September 16, 2014 at 07:46 pm
Pedro, I am interested in your invitation to have Cuban food at your place.
James / February 4, 2015 at 04:44 pm
I don't usually write restaurant reviews and tend to find some reviews extremely self-righteous/pretentious/delusional. But I had a horrible experience at this place and feel like I must share with other readers:

Checked this place out on Sunday for brunch and was extremely disappointed by the service. While the hostess was gracious and well mannered at a place that is packed for brunch, the male waiter was nothing but rudeness and attitude for no apparent reason.

First issue: I ordered the Cuban Breakfast which usually comes with poached eggs - which I am not a fan of. So I asked the waiter if I could change my eggs for any other kind (scrambled, fried, boiled, whatever) but he said they did not do substitutions - how hard is it to throw some fried eggs on my plate instead of poached when every other plate on the menu comes with fried or scrambled eggs?!
So I patiently asked if I could at least have my eggs well done - not runny. He looked at me, rolled his eyes as far back as he could and said "I will see what I can do". Sure enough when my plate came: Runny, under cooked, poached eggs.

Second and worst issue of all: Everyone from my table of 3 ordered a "Cafe con Leche" which is basically a "cuban latte". Once it came, we tried our coffee and realized we wanted more sugar in it - pretty standard right? When I asked the waiter for sugar, he rolled his eyes like I was totally ignorant about coffee and instead of bringing the sugar for my table he simply told us that "sugar had already been added to it and that we wouldn't be needing any more sugar" and kept on going with his tasks, serving other tables. I literally had to stand up and grab sugar from another table because my waiter had decided that there was enough sugar in my coffee already. How insulting is that?! I'm never returning to La Cubana after this.

PS: Even if the service had not been that bad, the food really wasn't much to talk about.
Yvonne / March 11, 2015 at 04:06 am
stop whining like a real BITCH!!! Order whatever the menu says!!!! Respect the chef and the restaurant you go to!!! You people are way too spoiled!!! You think you can go inside a restaurant and order whatever you want and change the menu. Go AWAY!! You stink!!!! If you do that in France and Italy you get kicked out of the place immediately!!! GROW UP!!! Also about the sugar!! OMFG!!! Cafe de Leche means there's SUGAR inside the coffee already. STOP ADDING STUFF!!! IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THAT!!! GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bitch. and DO NOT GO TO EUROPE!!!!
clarissa replying to a comment from Carmen / March 20, 2015 at 11:20 pm
what do you recommend?
Vegetarian food hunter / June 28, 2015 at 01:22 pm
Just had a lunch on la Cubana and wow delicious vegetarian "medianoche" veggie sandwiche with fresh everything , avocado , fresh cheese oh gosh I was going to go for delicious yuca Fritas but went for a special conch fritters wow mouth watering my meal was ready in less than 5 min and the staff was friendly and welcoming , restaurant was full of happy friendly people , great atmosphere ,nice music playing .I truly recommend it !!

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