BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Havana Houston is located on Dairy Ashford and Memorial Drive about a mile south of I-10 in Southwest Houston, but it’s more like something you would find inside the loop. Not only will you find traditional Cuban dishes, but their fusion dishes include plates from Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean and abroad. I LIKE Vacation and I LOVE Havana Houston!
This fine International Fusion restaurant has a Cuban/ Texas touch which is unique. Don’t expect to find traditional Cuban fare here – but, Cuban with a Texas feel. So, expect the unexpected!
Whether you want tapas on the patio, cocktails at the bar or a fine dining experience with friends and loved ones – you will find it here at Havana Houston. There’s nothing average about this restaurant. They have seasonal lunch specials with fast service and free soup or salad with every lunch entree. The perfect place if you work in the area and need to grab a quick bite on the go. Plus, they offer great Happy Hour specials and one of the best Mojitos I have ever tasted – served with fresh sugar cane. Nice touch, guys!
One thing I learned on my visit was that they offer full-staff catering for private and corporate events – both a-la-cart and bulk packages. I told the waiter about an in-home event I had been planning and he let me know that their master chef could cook and prepare a 3, 4 or 5 course meal in my home. Now, THAT is something I would be interested in!
Now, you can’t visit Havana Houston without trying one of their famous Mojitos. So, that is exactly what we did! Walked straight up to bar and ordered them for our group. I love Mojitos and on the beach in Southern California I can’t think of anything better. Until now. If you’ve never tried one, it is built with mint, sugar, Bacardi Rum, soda with a splash of Sprite and bitters and garnished with a piece of sugarcane – which really put this special cocktail over the top. I cannot stress enough. Get the Mojito to start things off!
Two of the appetizers served here are absolutely incredible: the Beef Carpaccio and the Guajiro Sampler. Two great reasons why this restaurant is best enjoyed family style.
The Beef Carpaccio is made up of thinly-sliced beef tenderloin topped with shallots, parsley, balsamic reduction, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper that you pile on top of a brochette. As you can see in the photography, when I say thinly sliced… I mean thinly sliced! Perfectly seasoned, it took everything I had not to eat the whole thing – although everyone I was with that night might say I ate a little more than my share. Ha!
This delightful dish was paired with one of my favorites, Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Blue Label 2014 – a Merlot with a dark garnet color and a taste of cherries. It was the perfect accent to the bright-tasting Carpaccio.
If you want to try a little bit of everything, then the Guajiro Sampler is what you are looking for. It comes with a variety of tasty tidbits: Tostone cups stuffed with Béchamel Sauce, ham and cheese; Fried Maduros, Fried Yucca in Chimichurri Sauce, and Fritura de Malanga. I especially enjoyed the Stuffed Tostone Cups. These little bites of heaven are incredible!
I have three favorite entrees here: the Cuban Paella, Filet Mignon with Lobster Tail and the Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass. Each one is excellent, so I suggest you pick what you are most interested in or share with a friend.
The Cuban Paella is the Cuban version of this classic saffron rice dish. Loaded with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster and fish – it guarantees seafood in every bite. Seriously! Just look at the photography! Not only is this dish as beautiful as anything you have ever seen, but the taste just follows that lead. I always say you eat with all 5 senses… and this traditional Cuban dish proves it! The fresh seafood served here at Havana Houston is fully expressed in this hot bowl of goodness with portions for 2 or 4. Trust me, it’s a lot of food!
Next up, one of my favorite meals on earth. The Filet Mignon with Lobster Tail consists of a perfectly-prepared 8-oz Prime Mignon served alongside Scalloped Potatoes, Broccolini with Port Wine Reduction Sauce and a prime lobster tail exquisitely sitting on top. I am DEFINITELY a meat-and-potatoes type of guy at heart… I mean – I am a Texan! Ha! Add a nice surf to mix and it doesn’t get any better. The Port Wine Reduction Sauce makes this dish stand out even more. It’s hard to put into words… so I will just say, you must try this entrée. Who has it better than me? Nobody!
If you are looking for a seafood entrée, then the Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass is the way to go. Chilean Sea Bass is my favorite fish – and I swear the one I was served must have been swimming that morning. As fresh as it gets! That pan-seared Sea Bass came with Roasted Bell Pepper Beurre Blanc, Sautéed Spinach and Lemon Green Onions Risotto. Again, perfectly cooked and perfectly placed on top of a risotto that is to die for! Just another dish that you must try. I will put my name on it!
And now for dessert. You know that puts a smile on this guy’s face! We ordered the Grand Marnier Double Chocolate Cake and the New York-Style Cheesecake with Guayaba Sauce. Our wonderful server let us know we needed to pair them with a Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port. What a great choice! This full-bodied port was very smooth with a blackberry fruit flavor. Ahhmazing!
My favorite dessert of the two was the Grand Marnier Double Chocolate Cake… does that surprise you? Ha! I can’t even explain how this SO-sweet chocolatey dessert was just the right end to one of the best evenings I have had in a while. I wanted to stop, because I am watching my figure (lol) but I just couldn’t. It’s that GOOD!
Well, my vacation to Havana via Havana Houston is not a night I will soon forget. Such a unique concept, with a menu and ambiance that compares to no other. Whether you are looking for a nice quick lunch, Happy Hour cocktails or a special anniversary dinner…. I highly recommend you try this wonderful Cuban-Fusion restaurant. Enjoy!
Good Eats Houston Recommends…
Mint, sugar, Bacardi Rum, soda with a splash of Sprite and bitters with a piece of sugarcane
Thinly sliced beef tenderloin topped with shallots, parsley, balsamic reduction, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
Paired with: Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Blue Label 2014
Merlot, Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Brilliant, deep garnet color with aromas of bright red cherries and clove spice. Supple red plum and black cherry flavors highlight the palate, with subtle notes of light milk chocolate and vanilla bean evident on the long finish
Stuffed tostone cups with béchamel sauce, ham, and cheese; fried maduros, fried yucca in chimichurri sauce, and fritura de Malanga
Paired with: Ruffino Pinot Grigio Lumina 2015
Pinot Gris/Grigio, Ruffino Winery
Notes of meadow flowers, pears, and golden apple. The bouquet is fresh and complex, showing refined notes of sage and mint accompanied by an elegant minerality typical of Pinot Grigio. Medium bodied, lively, and elegant. A touch of minerality lingers in the finish, with notes of lemon peel
Fillet Mignon with Lobster Tail
8 ounce Prime Mignon served with scalloped potatoes, broccolini with port wine reduction sauce and a prime lobster tail on top
Paired with: Root 1 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon, Root 1 Winery
Rich red wine with black currant, mocha and chocolate notes
Cuban version of this classic saffron rice dish guarantees seafood in every bite; loaded with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster and fish
Paired with: Decoy Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Sauvignon Blanc, Decoy Winery
Exotic aromas of passion fruit, papaya, ginger and star fruit leap from the glass, along with layers of grapefruit and melon. On the palate, a lovely Sémillon-driven silkiness provides delicate weight to this wine, while crisp, refreshing acidity and vibrant citrus flavors draw the wine to a lingering finish with notes of Meyer lemon and Kaffir lime
Oven Roasted Lam Loin
Roasted Lamb Loin served with mint gnocchi, sauteed asparagus and baby carrots in mint lamb jus
Paired with: Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2014
Pinot Noir, Gnarly Head Winery
Touts voluptuous aromas of red cherry, vanilla, earth and spice. A rush of black cherry and plum with hints of toasted hazelnut, tobacco and cigar box delight the palate
Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass
Pan seared Sea Bass, roasted bell pepper beurre blanc, sautéed spinach with lemon green onions risotto
Paired with: Chateau Ste Michelle 2014
Chardonnay, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
Fresh, soft style with bright apple and sweet citrus fruit character with subtle spice and oak nuances. We blend Chardonnay grapes from vineyards throughout Washington’s Columbia Valley to make this a complex, interesting wine. The sur lie aging gives it an appealing richness
Grand Marnier Double Chocolate Cake
New York Style Cheesecake with Guayaba Sauce
Both Paired with: Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port
Port, Fonseca Guimaraens Winery
The palate full bodied and round, with a smooth velvety texture balanced by firm mouth filling tannins. The juicy black fruit flavours linger into the rich luscious finish
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
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