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Havana

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Neckarstaden 24 69117 Heidelberg

Havana, the capital of Cuba, is famously known for its nightlife.  Clubs and bars, Cuban cigars, salsa music, dancing, and mojitos.  With the exception of the smokes, this same Cuban nightlife has been brought over thousands of miles to, of all places, Heidelberg, Germany.  Visitors visiting this romantic city can experience a bit of Cuban culture and cuisine at Havana bar and restaurant, an establishment overlooking the calming waters of the Neckar River.

Havana shares the Stadthalle convention center building with the city’s Kongresshaus (congress house).  The towering building, built in the early 20th century, is an impressive sight from a distance.

 

The interior, though, looks even more stunning.  Grandiose pillars and archways, as well as finely decorated ceilings and walls, combine elements of Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture and design.  Various framed black and whites hang from the walls around.  There are plenty of dark oak tables and chairs inside, enough to accommodate hundreds of diners.  In the center of the dining room is a very huge bar, with stools all around.  There are also booths along the walls.  Aside from a few potted trees inside the establishment and the cocktail napkin featuring an image of Che, you will hardly find any indication of Cuban culture or of anything Cuban.

The list of drinks is as huge as the building and as remarkable as the restaurant’s design.  Not only can you find your typical soft drinks, you can also order draught beers, bottled beers (Corona and Desperados), milk shakes, juices, and hot drinks.  From white to red wines, to sangria, champagne, whiskey, rum, and tequila, the list of alcoholic drinks goes on and on.  There are also assorted rum cocktails, such as mojitos, caipirinha, tequila cocktails, margaritas, and coladas.  Too early for alcohol?  There are a handful of alcohol free cocktails that are just as refreshing and delicious.

The ‘Tropicalisimo’ is a mixture of pineapple and passion fruit juice, pineapple and passion fruit syrup, and lime juice.  Served in a cocktail glass with slices of pineapple and melon, it is a energizing and cool drink for a hot, summer day.

Considering the expensive looking dining room, it’s surprising to find that most of the main courses are under 15 euros.  On the menu, written in both German and English, are different types of beef and pork steaks, chicken skewers and chicken breast, a seafood platter with fish, prawns, and calamari, rollitos (filled tortilla rolls), taquitos, and rice dishes.  For dessert, there are four sweets to choose from.

The Arroz con Pollo is remarkably flavorful for such a simple dish.  At 10,50 €, it is also reasonably priced and quite satisfying.  In Havana’s version of Arroz con Pollo, basmati rice is mixed together with thinly sliced carrots, fine shreds of cabbage, strips of green peppers, and chopped mushrooms.  Large chunks of grilled chicken breast fillets are combined with the rice.  On the side of the plate is a small side salad of lettuce, dressed in a light honey Dijon dressing.  Yogurt sauce, served in a small ramekin, also accompanies the dish.

The chicken breast, incredibly moist and tender, is cooked and seasoned perfectly.  It makes the yogurt sauce completely unnecessary.  Mushrooms are also juicy and add an extra dimension.  The vegetables do not get lost in the dish – the carrots add a nice crunch, the peppers a nice hint of sweetness.  The greens are a nice accompaniment and complete the meal.

The place seems to be a bit understaffed at times.  On one lunch visit, there was only one server on hand, responsible for taking orders, preparing all of the drinks, and also serving the dishes.  At these times, tracking down the waiter to merely order dessert or pay the bill can drag on for quite some time.  Compounding the problem is the lengthy wait time for the food.  The Arroz con Pollo took around 15 minutes from order to service.  Despite the huge responsibility and pressure, though, the server was still polite and friendly.  Nonetheless, some adjustments should be made in this area of service.

Havana is a great place to enjoy a night out with friends or share a romantic meal with a loved one.  The interior is stunning and magnificent.  While the food is a mixture of Latin American cuisines and not quite focused on one specific type, the dishes are executed well.  Despite the frustrating service, Havana does merit a visit based on its exciting atmosphere, extensive list of alcoholic beverages, and salsa evenings in the basement.

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Summary:

Situated near the Heidelberg Kongresshaus along the Neckar River, Havana is a Cuban restaurant, cervecería, and salsa club serving up an enormous selection of cocktails and alcoholic drinks as well as a good listing of Latin American style cuisine.  Very impressive interior.  Outdoor terrace seating with a beautiful view of the Neckar River during the summer months.  Sunday brunch buffet featured every weekend.

Hours: Monday – Thursday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
            Fridays: 12:00 PM – 3:00 AM
            Saturdays: 11:00 AM – 3:00 AM
            Sunday: 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM

 

Overall – 4 stars

  • Tropicalisimo – 4/5
  • Arroz con Pollo – 4.5/5
  • Service – 3/5

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http://www.havana-heidelberg.de/

Written by geschmack

June 30th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Heidelberg

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Malecón

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Mittelbadgasse 3 69117 Heidelberg

Cuban cuisine has made it to Heidelberg!  Down a narrow street off of Heidelberg’s market square, you can experience a tiny part of Caribbean culture in a cozy, small restaurant and bar named after Havana’s long coastal seawall – Malecón.  Here, it’s all about good food and drinks at very inexpensive prices.

A step inside Malecón is like taking a voyage to the Caribbean – the environment is extremely casual and, for the most part, delivers with its Caribbean theme.  As you enter the place, you will immediately notice the large Cuban flag proudly displayed above the door.  Hanging from the walls are various photographs of Mexico and the neighboring islands.  There are numerous handcrafts and sculptures all around the place.  Maybe a bit over the top, but it makes the place interesting.  Most of the decorative items here are actually for sale, including a hammock bound to wooden poles, as well as countless sombreros.  You can find a random mixture of souvenir items from the tropics, such as bottles of alcohol, T-Shirts, and books.  Capping the experience is regional music blasting from the speakers.

 

A number of lounge couches and modern bar stools make up half of the seating arrangements in the restaurant.  The cleanly polished wooden tables and chairs that make up the dining area do seem out of place and stand out in contrast to the décor – seems more fitting for a café or traditional German restaurant as opposed to a Cuban restaurant and bar.

The menu at Malecón definitely lacks focus.  Although the restaurant boasts being a Cuban establishment, there are dishes and specialties from Mexican (no, you won’t find tacos here!), Kurdish, and Persian cuisine featured on the menu.  Heck, there are even a couple of Japanese dishes thrown into the mix.  We’re not talking about fusion cuisine that mixes flavors of the Caribbean with the Far East.  Instead, each of these ethnic dishes is given its own section, separated from the other menu items.  Quite odd, indeed.  For vegetarians, there are also a few dishes to pick out from each page.  Drinks range from your standard hot drinks (coffees, teas, Japanese tea) to your typical sodas and cold beverages.  There is a bar counter with bar stools here at Malecón with a good number of alcoholic drinks.  Aside from the normal Heidelberger Pils beers, Malecón does serve up Corona cerveza.  The wine list is limited.

 

Aside from the décor and souvenirs, the varying lunch menu makes Malecón an attractive place to visit.  Every 14 days, the menu changes.  Items from the normal menu are found on this lunch special, but for far less than you would normally pay.  For each day, Monday to Saturday, there are 3 to 4 dishes to choose from (including vegetarian dishes).  A small portion will only set you back 3,60 €, a large 5,60 €.  Students get a further discount!  As an example of the possible dishes to choose from, today you could order the Montañez – a Cuban vegetarian dish consisting of fried rice with vegetables, Pollo a la Tropicana – roasted chicken, prepared Cuban style, with rice, Papas rellenas – potatoes stuffed with a mix of vegetables, or Estanboli – a Persian rice dish with ground meat, tomatoes, potatoes, and parsley.

The papas rellenas is prepared vegetarian style, meaning you won’t find any seasoned ground meat that is typically found in traditional recipes.  The mashed potato balls are stuffed with zucchinis, corn, tomatoes, parsley, peppers, carrots, and various herbs.  On the side is a scoop of short grain white rice with the same combination of vegetables on top.  Frankly, this mixture of vegetables and the rice overshadows the main star of the dish.  The rice is cooked so perfectly and the veggies pack a ton of flavor that the papas rellenas just become an afterthought.  Even though the stuffing is the same as what’s on the bed of rice, the potatoes just take away from the strength of the individual elements.

 

Pollo a la Tropicana is executed better.  A large portion comes with 4 small pieces of chicken and 1 leg.  Prepared Cuban style, the chicken is marinated in lemon, roasted with the skin on, and blanketed with a slice of cheese.  This texture combination is delicious with the juicy chicken, the crisp skin, and the gooey, melted cheese topping it off.  Moreover, the chicken is salted and prepared well.  Accompanying the meat is a bed of the perfectly cooked rice piled with a tomato-pepper-herb topping.  On the side is a small amount of chopped lettuce drenched in a light creamy dressing.  Chicken and rice – you simply can’t go wrong with such a dish!

Overall, Malecón is a good place to stop by for a quick bite.  Although the menu is rather limited, the mix of cuisines is questionable, and the true essence of Cuban cuisine isn’t there, what food they do offer is appetizing and delicious.  Factor in the inexpensive lunch menu and you have a winner!

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Summary:

Located on a street off of the Heidelberg Marktplatz, Malecón is a Cuban restaurant and bar offering a rather limited selection of international cuisine, including Cuban, Mexican, Persian, Kurdish, and Japanese dishes.  Malecón does have a fairly extensive offering of drinks – highlighted by Cuban cocktails such as mojitos.  Combination of a restaurant, bar, and Caribbean souvenir shop.  Extremely pleasant service.  Very affordable prices, better to go during the day.

Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11:30 AM – 1:00 AM

 

Overall – 4 stars

  • Papas rellenas – 3/5
  • Pollo a la tropicana – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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www.cubamarket-caravana.de/

Written by geschmack

April 20th, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Heidelberg

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