The Latin-inspired Cuba Libre Old Havana Restaurant & Rum Bar, is officially open for business, as of October 1st. I’ll be there for dinner on Friday but unless you go yourself, you’ll have to wait for my review. But as always, you shouldn’t just take my word for it, you should experience it yourself. Besides, how many times can you get away to Cuba on a weeknight?
Two weeks before the opening I got a sneak peek of Cuba Libre’s remarkably thematic design which is a collaboration of craftsman Kevin Hale and his firm, Artisan Industry of Nashville, Tennessee and Cuban American architect Carlos Sobrin, of the Orlando, Florida firm Cuhaci & Peterson (see slideshow here). With experience in theatre production, the design team created the Old Havana circa the 1950s the “Vegas of it’s time”, according to Chris Perrupato, General Manager of the Orlando, FL Cuba Libre who is in town helping with the DC opening. The restaurant’s main dining room (seats 170 total) and bar with high top tables, that seat 50 are along an intimate streetscape lined by recreations of two-story buildings with balconies, windows and doors highlighted by ornate moldings, and wrought iron railings modeled after photos of actual Old Havana buildings.
Maybe for the first time in the history of a DC restaurant opening, guests will receive half off of their opening menu. For the first week of opening, diners at the new “Nuevo Cubano” restaurant will receive a 50% discount on their dinner on opening day, October 1st til the 7th. Executive Chef Jason Kaufman said, “It’s our way of showing we’re dedicated to getting it right. People are a lot more forgiving about their food being late if it is at a discount. People are happy when they are saving money”. Then from October 8-13th, guests will be offered a 25% discount before the full price menu begins October 14th, two weeks after their soft opening. Guests can call to make reservations and reservations online can be made after September 25th.
Cuba Libre’s menu showcases the flavors of various Latin regions featuring piqueos, or small tasting plates, ideal for experiencing a multitude of delicious flavor combinations was specifically developed for Washington by Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot. Orlando GM, Perrupato said, “The structure of the DC menu is completely different than our other locations. The concept of small plates is different for us but that is the trend in DC and that what makes DC unqiue is so many ways. The small plates are great. You’re never having to wait for an entree to come out. There is no lag time.”
Executive Chef Kaufman said his favorite dishes are the Bay Scallop Ceviche and that most popular dish of all Cuba Libre locations, including Atlantic City and Orlando is the Churrasco a la Cubana. A Grilled skirt steak with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, parsley, lemon and onion sauce, watercress and rosemary mushroom escabeche salad. Besides its ceviche and ropa vieja (Cuban stew), Cuba Libre is known for and its expansive rum menu. With more than 75 premium and flavored varieties from Brazil, Haiti, Nicaragua and Tortola, as well as the restaurant’s six Cuba Libre branded rums by Demerara Distillers in Guyana which are aged up to 21 years. Fresh tropical fruit juices are also incorporated into the specialty cocktails. Cuba Libre’s house specialty, the mojito is available in 15 varieties and made from an authentic Cuban recipe. Fresh sugar cane juice, called guarapo and lime juice is pressed daily in-house (see photos). These are the coolest kitchen gadgets you’ve ever seen; however, the Zumex alone will run you about nine grand. In addition, the restaurant also features an extensive wine selection, primarily from Spain and South America.
In a few weeks with weather permitting, Cuba Libre will open their 66-seat sidewalk café. In addition, when the dust settles sometime in the near future, on Friday and Saturday nights after dinner hours, around 10–11 PM, the tables will be moved back for dancing and Cuba Libre will heat up with Latin rhythms as professional salsa dancers perform colorful floor shows. The resident DJ overlooking the floor in the mezzanine booth, will spin Salsa, Meringue, Bachata and other Latin dance music to keep guests heading to the dance floor well into the night. (801 Ninth St. NW, 202-408-1600).