Robaina's plantation

Wednesday 30 April 2014

El Emperador (Havana) Restaurant Review

               This restaurant is located on the ground floor of the tallest building in Havana, the Fosca Building. It's not a place where I would normally grab a meal but I hadn't come here with that intent. We wanted to have lunch at 'La Torre' which is on the top floor with a gorgeous view of the city but that restaurant was closed. Someone in our group had to eat immediately and this was the quickest option.
                The main dining room with it's decor and furnishings was like a throwback of a bygone era. I found out that this restaurant actually did exist before the revolution. That wasn't so bad but they hadn't done anything to spruce up the place in all these years, or so it seemed. The place looked rundown, worn, dirty but nothing prepared us for the bathrooms. I had been in better bathrooms at gas Cuba. No toilet seats, no toilet paper, forget paper towels or soap, I didn't even check if the sinks had water. However, worst of all was the stench that permeated the bathroom making it impossible for anyone with a weak stomach to enter. But I hadn't seen the bathrooms until after I finished my meal.
                The waiter was nice enough but we had to ask for serviettes, everything fancy, linen, china, silverware and the waiter wore a suit and tie. The menu was quite extensive with hot and cold appetizers, meat, fish, fowl & pork. As for wine, I chose one I had the night before for only half the price, 12cuc, a Chilean Cabernet. This is a state run restaurant and I really wasn't expecting anything special, I was hoping for marginal bordering on not getting sick. I really wanted to push the envelope, I saw Carpaccio as one of the appetizers, I had to try it. I was surprised, except for the fact that I had to use lime (there are no lemons on this island) and there was no shaved parmigiano (I don't know what the stringy imitation was) or capers (they used onions instead), it was actually pretty good....and I lived to write about it. My main course wasn't as good, even though I went with what I thought was the sure thing. I had the fish filet, plain. It looked unappetizing on the plate and it was plain all right...tasteless and dry too. Someone else in the group thought he went with the sure thing too, the Chicken Supreme. How can you screw up chicken? Well, if the source isn't good quality, it doesn't matter what you do with the chicken, the outcome will always be the same. In this case it was very obvious that it was poor quality local chicken, it was hard and didn't taste right. He was happy with his starter, Ceviche, it was abundant and tasty. My date started with the Cream Cheese Soup and said it was more flour than cheese, she could hardly taste it. However, she did enjoy her Queen Fish Filet that was topped with a nice pile of fairly good sized shrimp and melted cheese (the tasteless kind that was in her soup). The last person had the Shellfish Mushroom Salad which had no mushrooms and the only shellfish it consisted of was shrimp. Might as well of called it Shrimp Salad or they could have at least told us what they din't have. For a main course he had the Filet Fish Almondine which he was okay with.
                  After all was said and done, it was exactly what I expected, the price as well, inexpensive for what we had. Including the bread, water, 2 bottles of wine and the gratuity that was included....91.30cuc. We left our waiter a substantial tip but I doubt I will be returning.

Calle 17 e/ M y N, Edificio Focsa
Vedado. Havana
tel. (53 7) 832-4998

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