Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kuba Kuba in Richmond: Fail!

I had heard a lot of good things about this restaurant from my Richmond friends, so a while back, while delivering some artwork to a local collector, I dropped by and had dinner.

The atmosphere is very trendy and somewhat hip, which is something different from most Cuban restaurants outside of NYC. It looked like a very cool restaurant which happened to serve (I was told) great Cuban food.

I knew that something was wrong when I was served a basket of chips and salsa as soon as I sat down.

I rationalized it as the fact that in Richmond, even a Cuban restaurant has to "normalize" and come down to the fact that a lot of people think that Mexico starts south of the border and there are no other culinary traditions elsewhere in the twenty-something other nations in the Americas... maybe they got tired of people asking for chips and salsa.

Notice to Kuba Kuba: Cuban food does not include chips and salsa... perhaps a serving of mariquitas (fried, thin chips made out of plantains), but not Mexican tortilla chips - in a Cuban cuisine, a tortilla is an omelet.

I ordered the most basic of Cuban dishes, which of course, came with the staple of Cuban food: white rice and black beans.

There is a long cultural tradition assigned to this dish, and even its Cuban Spanish name (moros y cristianos or "moors and christians") tell you something about the dish (rumored to honor the 100th anniversary in 1592 of Queen Isabella's final victory over the Moors in 1492).

I was horrified when my moros y cristianos was brought to me with the black beans piled atop the white rice.

HUGE cultural gaffe! These two parts of this key Cuban dish are always, always, always served in separate dishes and only the eater can mix them, if he/she desires to mix it.

When cooked together, a different dish, called "congri" is the result: Different dish, different flavor, different recipe.

Overall, the food was acceptable, but far from stellar or memorable, although it is probably one of the few variants of Latin American food available to Richmonders... too bad the owners (I am willing to bet they're not of Cuban ancestry) miss the rich cultural tradition that goes along with proper Cuban food.



susana said...

Hi Lenny, I've actually eaten at Kuba Kuba several times and photographed the owner, Manny, who is in fact of Cuban ancestry, his parents and he left Cuba in the early 60's, and his mom bakes THE MOST INCREDIBLE tres leches I have ever eaten. Every time I go to Richmond I stop by to order a Cubano (I'm not interested in much else on the menu and have been disappointed by the fried platanos and moros y cristianos tambien) and the Tres Leches and then I order several to go to bring back for friends. It does not dissapoint.

Lenny said...

OK - a great tres leches makes up a little...