Asia De Cuba
The delicious fusion of Chino-Latino cuisine comes to Bahrain in the form of luxury restaurant, bringing to the Kingdom exciting flavours and the experience of truly innovative cuisine
Once spotted only on the streets of Havana, and slowly finding its way to Miami and eventually New York, Chino-Latino cuisine is just that, the rich fusion of Cuban and Asian cuisine, giving birth to an exciting dining experience, inviting diners to experience different familiar tastes that come together to create entirely unique dishes that test their taste palettes in the best fashion. The Kingdom recently welcomed the experience as the renowned Chino-Latino restaurant, Asia De Cuba, opened its first branch in Bahrain in the country’s well-known culinary zone of Block338. Perle Magazine spoke to the highly talented Executive Chef Luis Pous, who is responsible for heading the restaurants globally, and through his expansive and eclectic menu diners get an insight into the world of Cuban cuisine.
Asian cuisine found its way into Cuban cooking after the immigration of about 150,000 Chinese into Cuba, forming one of the largest Chinatowns in Latin America, El Barrio Chino de la Habana. Along with their belongings, the Chinese also brought with them their rich culture, heritage, and culinary masteries, which soon became part of the Cuban gastronomic fabric. As the Cubans incorporated the new cooking techniques and recipes into their own food, the island’s cuisine took a new turn and became enriched with influences of Chinese culture, thus, giving rise to the Chino-Latino culinary scene. Taking this concept, along with his dream of opening a restaurant that would resonate with those who also share his Cuban roots, founder of the restaurant chain, Jeffery Chodorow, launched Asia De Cuba. The first branch in New York, followed by London, Abu Dhabi, and most recently in Bahrain, the restaurants are headed by Cuban-born Executive Chef Luis Pous, who has been tantamount to the restaurants’ success through his visionary cooking, innovating recipes, and showcasing his talent through his take on Asian influenced Cuban cuisine.
Luis Pous starting his career by training at the National School of Culinary Arts in Havana, truly being engulfed in Cuban culinary, where he not only was able to understand the art behind his national cuisine but was also fortunate enough to cook for numerous diplomats and foreign dignitaries. After his move to the United States in 1997, Chef Luis worked diligently to establish himself as an accomplished chef and on his journey he worked at various renowned places such as the award-wining Turnberry Isle in Aventura, where he managed their kitchens for nearly two decades; Hotel Plaza Athenée in New York City; the prestigious Noble House Hotels and Resorts, where he acted as Corporate Chef, and was in charge of overseeing all culinary operations. Among his extensive and impressive resume, also included is the role of Executive Chef of one of Florida’s most coveted dining destinations, The Dining Room at the Little Palm Island and Resort and Spa, is also included, where his pivotal role earned the restaurant a #3 ranking in the country in Zagat, as well as #1 ranking in Florida for hotel restaurants, and in 2008 the restaurant was named the #2 hotel restaurant in the country by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Chef Luis’ passion for cooking from a young age and vigour towards the culinary arts garnered him the position of one of the top ranking chefs in the United States, and caught the attention of Asia de Cuba CEO, Jeffery Chodorow, who asked him to come on board and develop his initial idea and menu into the widely recognised and celebrated international brand Asia de Cuba is today.
“I loved to cook with my family – my mother and grandmother taught me. When they would prepare dinner, I would stand on a pedestal and peer over the top of the pan to see what was being cooked”, Chef Luis explains. His zeal for educating the world about Cuban food while simultaneously working on his versions of traditional Cuban dishes has always been the drive behind Chef Luis’ creative mindset. “I have had an incredible journey from Cuba and have been able to experiment and create menus through which people can learn about the flavours of Cuba”, he adds.
The menu, which was initially created by Jeffery Chodorow and consisted of about 20 items, has been re-designed by Chef Luis and though does carry on with Jeffery’s vision, is Chef Luis’ interpretation of what Cuban cuisine with Asian influences would have been like had the chefs in Cuba the opportunity to access ingredients available globally, to further evolve Chino-Latino cuisine. The menu is designed keeping in mind the heavy use of seafood in Cuban dishes and taking into account the local tastes. It consists of delicious starters such as the Ceviches that can be made using different seafood options such as Hamour (for a more local flavour), Hamachi, Tuna, Red Snapper and more; the Small Plates section has sharing portions and include vegetarian, chicken, and meat options for the diners to enjoy, especially the signature Shrimp Churros that have been inspired by the Japanese shrimp toast and the usually sweet street-food churros, but in Asia de Cuba they are a savoury delight served with coconut Thai curry sauce. The hefty Salads section caters to the different taste palates around the Kingdom and the Roasted Duck salad has quickly become a crowd favourite as it made using fresh fruits such as mandarin orange, pommello, pomegranate, Napa cabbage, almonds, roasted duck, topped with almonds and crispy duck skin – beautifully fusing together the sweet and savoury tastes. In the Wok sections, customers can indulge in the hearty Chino-Latino dishes cooked in the traditional Asian manner, especially the signature Mojo Duck Confit that is served with brown rice, orange Thai basil, Thai chilli, topped with poached egg, or the very special Chilli Rubbed Scallops that are served with Japanese black rice, black beans, roasted cauliflower, and aioli and is truly a rich burst of flavour in each bite, and the first of its kind in the country.
The entrées are a rich selection of wholesome dishes such as Seven Spice Half Roasted Chicken, which is made using the traditional 5 Chinese spices with an additional two more spices of cardamom and Annatto peppers cooked sous vide to create a crispy outer layer and succulent on the inside, served with a congri of rice and beans prepared risotto-style, garnished with sweet plantains, peppers, and mushrooms; or the Ginger and Papaya Marinated Palomilla (butterfly steak) served with tatsoi, pickled vegetables, and Thai chilli mojo. In the Los Platos Grandes section, diners can experience the specialty of the restaurant, especially the chef’s favourite, El Lambchon, which is a Cuban-style slow roasted Lamb, served with maduros, black beans, yucca, lettuce cups, steamed for fried rice, shiso salsa verde Also home to signature dishes such as the Tunapica Tartare and the Chicken Chicharronnes Mojo, Chef Luis has doctored in the menu in a fashion that each dish in bite transports the diners to the streets of Havana as the entire menu captures the essence of traditional Chino-Latino cuisine with Chef Luis’ personal twist. “Its an explosion of flavours in everything we make!” Most dishes are can also be altered to create a vegetarian version. Ending the meal on a sweet note is the most ideal way to close an exquisite culinary experience, and the dessert at Asia de Cuba is just as exciting and eclectic as the rest of the menu. Including options such as the Guava cheesecake, which, unlike a traditional cheesecake, is layered with crispy sheets and whipped cheesecake topped with fruit. Crunchy and creamy at the same time, the cheesecake is light but flavourful. Also serving the traditional Cuban dessert of Buñuelo, a fried dough ball akin to a donut centre is served with a sugar-cane based sauce cooked with cinnamon, honey, orange, and cloves, and adding his own twist on the traditional donut, Chef Luis creates it using sweet potato and brioche-base, and served with caramel dipping sauce and chilli chocolate sauce.
The carefully crafted drinks at Asia de Cuba as well mirror the exotic nature of the food with delicious cool drinks such as the Buena Vista made from passion fruit, passion fruit syrup, topped off with soda and homemade spicy syrup, and pineapple or the Mariposa Rosa, which is a tangy and sweet drink made from hibiscus, raspberry, and watermelon, egg white, and a little bit of lime juice. The drinks options at Asia de Cuba are tantalising and refreshing and have something available for everyone.
“The menu is a combination of flavours and mix of Asian and Latin cuisine. Every dish is different. The menu reflects what a Cuban menu could look like now (traditionally) – an exciting range of flavours”, Chef Luis says.
Complementing the menu is the chic interior of the restaurant itself. Located in the fashionable complex of Gallery 21, the venue is hard to miss as the exterior demands attention with its spacious vicinity and a striking modern look in the day, and brightly lit at night invoking an ambiance of effervescence. The interior of the restaurant is reminiscent of outdoors Cuba with lush live-walls, high glass ceiling which allows in ample sunlight during the day, and tall trees in the dining area that add an air of exoticism without getting in the way of the two-level dining area. The upstairs balcony dining area seats the guests right next to the lush greenery as they overlook the busy area below while enjoying their meals. At night, the restaurant is transformed into a more demure setting with dimmed lights and live Cuban music to really transport the diners to the fun Cuban nights, to allow them to really experience the unique nature of Cuban culture all the while indulging in its rich cuisine. Full of life and flavour, Asia de Cuba is more than a restaurant that serves quality food, but rather brings to its customers an experience in Bahrain like never before.
Ensuring people are not only completely encapsulated in the ambiance of Cuba but also understand the concepts and cultures of Cuba and love it as much as the natives themselves, Chef Luis and Asia de Cuba have brought to Bahrain an extraordinary dining experience. From the contemporary yet comfortable setting, to the unique and appetising dishes, Asia de Cuba is an incredible journey to the country itself from the moment one sets foot through the iron cast doors.
For more information:
Gallery 21, Block 338, Adliya
(00973) 1771 1600
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