Tonight Ryan and I had dinner with my uncle Todd and his boyfriend Thom at Asia de Cuba. It was fun to do dinner, as they’re always full of stories and lots of fun to hang out with, and this was the first time it hadn’t been at my Grandma’s or at the hospital in a long time. Todd and Thom picked the spot because Thom used to go in his fancy PR/agent days and had some menu favorites. Plus, as the most Italian one of all of us, he pointed out, we needed food. It’s good for the grieving process, and it helps people heal. Specifically, he wanted cake. Sweets are good for the soul, don’tcha know.
I escaped from work a little early, fought my way through the West LA traffic to UCLA where I sprung Ryan free from his lab a couple hours early, and we made it to Todd and Thom’s home in WeHo by 7:30. Not bad for a Wednesday. We stopped in just long enough to cuddle their adorable dachshunds, and inched our way through the ridiculous traffic on Sunset. I don’t know why it’s always so packed but it really is. We made it mostly on time for our 8 PM reservation.
I’d heard of Asia de Cuba but never been. Same for the Mondrian Hotel, which houses it. Todd and Thom know the history of pretty much every building over and informed us that the hotel had been kind of crappy back in the day, painted Mondrian-esque colors or patterns (I forget which), hence the name, and they redid the whole thing, made it super modern (the internet tells me it’s all Philippe Starck-designed) and thus, the chain was born. The food at Asia de Cuba is not surprisingly a fusion of Asian and Latin American foods/flavors/preparations. Plus it was all really good comfort food, and that’s what we were after.
While we were waiting for our table, Todd and Thom took us to the gorgeous outside terrace/pool/patio area, where the Skybar is located. My pictures do not do this space justice.
Such a cool outside bar. You can kind of see the skyline in the background. It was a gray day, so you couldn’t see everything, but I was a dummy and didn’t take any real skyline pictures.
The Mondrian itself. Those rooms have incredible views of the city.
Blurry, but I love all the little vignettes set out all over the hotel. And look at those enormous pots!
Pillow-covered lounges and lantern-filled trees by the pool.
Obsessed with this long row of tables/lanterns/candles/everything. So perfect.
Our table was right by the windows, like in the picture at the top of my post (not my picture–borrowed from the internets, because I was a dummy and didn’t take a skyline picture). Such an awesome view, even on a gray June day.
Then the eating/healing began. The menu was ridiculous. Everything sounded good, and I was totally overwhelmed, so we went mostly with the waiter’s recommendations. Everything was shareable, so we got to try lots of yummy things.
We started with watermelon punch, all around. They brought us a big pitcher of pink punch and stemless wine glasses. Delicious and refreshing, but unfortunately I didn’t get to take a picture.
The gingeriness was really good, and not something I would have thought to pair with watermelon. Mmm.
The rest of these pictures were taken in mostly-darkness, as the restaurant was mostly dark and it was late and obviously dark outside. Todd was kind enough to light my pictures with his iPhone flashlight so I could take them. Teamwork!
So I lied. You can kind of see the punch in some of these. These were the scallops. Specifically “Pan Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops with sweet-sour plantains and habanero corn crema.” They were just seared, not very cooked, and the corn crema was delicious.
This baby was the “Honey-Rum Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly with Plantain Maduros and Shanghai Bok Choy and Enoki Mushrooms.” Because what dinner is complete without some melt-in-your-mouth pork bellies? And the sauce was so yummy.
This was Todd’s choice, as he’s a big noodle fan. They called it the Asian Noodle Box, which is a sofrito (I looked that up: it’s a kind of Caribbean/Latin American sauce) of Cuban vegetables and mushrooms in a rice noodle wrapper (box shaped) with chili hoisin broth. It was like a little lasagna made with thin sheets of rice noodles and little veggies in asian broth instead of sauce. It was surprisingly light.
Our final started was a Ropa Vieja of confit duck legs(!), sofrito of scallion, chayote and red pepper (they like their sofritos here) with a hoisin port sauce, served in lettuce cups. These were beyond delicious and I could have eaten an entire meal of just duck confit/lettuce tacos.
We were already filling up by now, so we split two big dishes: the Miso-cured Alaskan Black Cod with Edamame “fufu” (as best as I could tell, rice with edamame puree mixed in, dressed with whole edamames) and grilled shishito peppers; and the free-range Cuban Barbecue Chicken in tamarind sauce with Thai coconut sticky rice and avocado cilantro fruit salsa. And we threw in another coconut sticky rice and a plaintain fried rice, to round it all out.
The cod didn’t look all that impressive, but it was insanely good, cooked just enough and seasoned delicately. The chicken was an awesome presentation–they brought out the whole little bird. And the sticky rice, which arrived wrapped in banana leaves, I believe, was so sweet and coconutty, almost like a pudding. I don’t have a picture of the plantain fried rice, but it was good, like normal fried rice, but with the goodness of plantain. I think more foods should have plantains thrown in for good measure.
Thom and I are of the same mind re desserts, which is to say, we are fans. Ryan would rather eat more of the dinner parts of dinner and skip dessert, but I’m always for ending with sweet treats. We rounded out our therapy-dinner with a creation called the Cielo de Coco: a rum-flamed banana layer cake with coconut, white chocolate shavings, and dulce de leche ice cream.
Now, normally, I’m a skip-straight-to-the-deadliest-chocolatest-dessert kind of girl, but this was really good. Like really yummy banana pudding in cake form. Delicious.
We left fat and happy. I really do think there’s something therapeutic and kind of magical (not hocus pocus magical, but spiritual/good for the soul magical) about sharing good conversation and a long meal with friends, especially some you don’t get to see very often. And if we couldn’t get together for a funeral/memorial/other sad gathering, I feel like this was a pretty good get-together, just the four of us. It’s crazy to think I didn’t get to know Todd or Thom at all til I moved out to LA after college. My own uncles. It’s kind of amazing what kind of family connections you can pick up and cultivate in a couple years in a new spot. I feel pretty lucky.