I love the feeling of walking into a restaurant and feeling like I’m home. Most expats would agree that, however great the local food may be, there is nothing like a quick visit home via your palate.
I had just that feeling the other day. I walked into Havana Restaurant and felt as comfortable as can be right from the get go. “You’re from NYC, aren’t you?” may be running through your head. Shouldn’t you feel that way about a diner or pizza joint? You would be right, but unfortunately there is nothing like that here in Brno.
Caribbean food, on the other hand, is my favorite food to cook. Nothing makes me happier than having a Cuban pork sandwich, Jamaican jerk chicken or Haitian goat stew. I have a whole box of spices at home just for Caribbean cooking.
Going into a place like Havana makes my stress melt away. I can’t get a truly great burger and mac’n’cheese in Brno, but I can get shrimp fajitas. It may not be comfort food from my home country, but it’s someone’s home country and that’s good enough for me.
Havana is a fun place to go to. The décor is in your face Cuban, almost to the point of tackiness. But that is all part of the experience. You aren’t walking into a sophisticated French Bistro, or an elegant Tuscan restaurant. It felt like a good Cuban joint should. I could almost imagine a slight breeze of 40 degree humid air coming from a creaky ceiling fan with some old men arguing over dominoes in the corner. Ok, maybe I’m glad it wasn’t that authentic.
I have been to Havana a few times and can’t get enough of it. This time I decided to try some new things. I started out with my regular order of nachos. They may not be the best nachos I have had, but they get you in the right mood.
Then I decided to try their Creole Chicken Wings. The wings were fantastic. They were perfectly crisp and the seasoning was delicious (not too spicy, so don’t worry if you have Central European taste buds). They came with some dip purported to be buffalo sauce. I’m not sure what it was (maybe a ketchup mayonnaise mix) but it certainly wasn’t a buffalo sauce. No matter, buffalo sauce isn’t Cuban anyways.
I went way out of my comfort zone and ordered the Diablo Matambre Steak. I am not the biggest steak fan and considering the wide array of fajitas, burritos, tacos and other different delights, I surprised myself going for that. Fortunately it was a good choice.
The steak was cooked perfectly, it was seasoned well (strong black peppercorns, as I’d expect from Caribbean/Central American steaks). It came to the table in a sizzling pan on a bed of veggies and black beans. I loved the baby corn/string beans that came with it.
I feel like I should bring up my previous visit to Havana. Marta and I shared the most amazing dish. I strongly recommend getting their mixed fajita platter for two (I don’t remember the precise menu name as I wasn’t planning on writing a review at the time I was there).
I am not too sure what to write about the service. On the one hand, they are friendly and helpful. On the other hand, English is definitely an issue there. On the other hand, I rarely expect English to be spoken outside of the city center (and the immediate neighborhoods). Their menu is also very cumbersome (I’m sure if they cut out the bottom 50% of their dishes, they would still satisfy everyone that came).
Bottom line, you will have a great meal and an enjoyable experience at Havana. It’s great to see ethnic restaurants flourishing in Brno and hope they inspire more ideas. I would never have thought a good Cuban joint would be found tucked away in a mini shopping center in Líšeň. That is the best kind of surprise.