Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yum Shaker Numero III: La Bella Havana

When it comes to Caribbean Latin food I often dream in Cuban, so I was eager to check out the menu change when what was formally known as Belle Havana became La Bella Havana. What once was a marriage between French and Cuban cuisine is now a single yummy Cuban Lady.

I made a brief visit to Yonkers a few weeks ago, and on my way to visit a volunteer for ABLE House in NYC to prepare for a project, I had the pleasure of grabbing dinner at La Bella Havana with a few friends in Downtown Yonkers. You have the option of dining inside or alfresco when the weather is nice (unless you like to eat outside in the freezing cold or a storm... hey, to each his own!). We opted to eat inside in the air conditioning and under the breeze of the ceiling fans since my pencil skirt and lace top proved to not be summer heat friendly. This was a great choice because we got to enjoy the incredible ambiance...thank you wiggle skirt... La Bella Havana has a very relaxing atmosphere and if you don't look out the window you can certainly forget you are even in NY and escape to somewhere tropical...sigh.

Unless Chicken Little joined us for dinner, *their little imaginary buddy*, then I'd say by the look of these fellas that they are in the refrigeration and HVAC business. I however, am in the business of getting my Yum Shaker on.

Josue, Manny and I perused the menu while waiting for my friend Diana to arrive. The dinner menu is comprised of some classic Cuban dishes and shows how the cooking style of my ancestors can evolve to satisfy a more health conscious lifestyle without compromising authenticity. Long gone are the days where you can only get an iceberg salad at every Latin Caribbean kitchen. At La Bella Havana you have a small, yet delicious looking selection of creative salads consisting of nutritious mixed greens/mesclun and watercress adorned with crabmeat, avocado, pineapples, and mango and vinaigrette dressings. While I was disappointed that I didn't see Moros y Cristianos on the menu (white rice cooked in black beans, some call it "con gris"), the fact that mariquitas were on the menu made up for it. Not that they may not be on another NY Cuban restuarant menu, but this is a first for my eyes! I love mariquitas, especially when they are served hot and fresh straight from the stove (Abuelaaaa!).

I had a tough time choosing among the Pernil, Vaca Frita (churrasco) or the Achiote Marinated Chicken, but once Josue declared "Vaca Frita!" I knew I could steal some of his and go for the pernil (roast pork) since I eat chicken daily. The boys started off with La Bella Havana's much raved about mojitos and empanadas while I chose to be alcohol free (broke designated driver in the house!). I would have ordered pastelitos, my favorite of Cuban goodies, but like most Cuban restaurants in NY, it wasn't on the menu (insert sad face with a tear drop here). I was seriously trapped in a day dream about my approaching meal that I not only failed to take pictures of all the yummies, I even forgot to order a side of tostones with my meal. I like to think that I am a professional critic of tostones and only 3 places outside of my families kitchen have passed the test EVER, with only one place getting 5 stars. Needless to say, I was disappointed that I missed the opportunity to hopefully add another place where I can go and enjoy a plate of tostones with my meal, but my entree was so delicious that I know I'll be back for a second chance to take a taste! I get the feeling that I won't be disappointed in the least bit!

Overall, the food here was delicious and our friendly neighbors shared their unknown sweet potato dessert with us (AH-MAY-ZING!). Unfortunately, I did not save not even one little spot in my tummy for dessert since I couldn't fathom the idea of bringing the "scarf down" of my entree to a halt before I was full (it was so good!). The white rice with black beans on the side were so delish that it made up for them not being "Moros y Cristianos"; mix it together, you have the same idea anyway. My experience at La Bella Havana was great and next time I plan to go when I have the evening free to relax and try more (salad, desserts, drinks and tostones have been neglected by me this first visit!).

I didn't quite get the "Mmm-mmm finger-licking good" facial expression I was going for here, but this is the only picture I have with an empanada in it. I hate this picture, but it's about time I have one up of me in these blog posts anyway! *And time for Josue to get glasses because he said it came out good and I went by his word!*

My dish: Pernil with black beans and white rice on the side and mojo for the pernil. SO YUMMY!

Diana and Manny had the same dish: Bistec de Palomilla, maduros, rice and black beans. I was too self-centered (hunger does that to me) to ask them how it was but they did eat all of their food and say that they were returning in the future.

Josue had the Vaca Frita (churassco/skirt steak). He was sitting across from me so naturally I stole a piece. Talk about sabor! The steak was juicy, tender and scrumptuously flavorful. Remember I have the tendency to make up my own words! 
Just had to take a pic of the awesome couple that so kindly shared their dessert with us. I told Manny that I wanted to ask the lady what her dessert was and he looked at me like I had a gazillion heads and said, "Let her eat". The moment I wasn't paying attention the <3 creep <3 asked her and she was practically spoon feeding him. He saved his life from Death by Lisa by sharing with me. She said to him as she was walking out, "Be a good boy! I just want to pinch your cheeks!" I said, "Go ahead and do it, you only live once." Lesson learned: Don't listen to what a man tells you to do. I hope Manny's cheeks are hurting.

Thanks for reading, I hope the pictures entice you and I see you at my next visit to La Bella Havana (please, because I want to steal some of your dessert).

Til' next time baby dolls!

Besos, Beijos, Filakia,


Lisa xo

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