I hadn’t really been to that many Cuban restaurants. I’d actually only been to one, a small restaurant in Austin, TX, and Cafe Piquet was another try for some great Cuban food by our cousin Ammy’s suggestion. The way she’d described the Mojo sauce or the slow cooked meats, I was really excited to try.
The Cuban restaurant presence had a way of drawing you in by ways of their decor and atmosphere. Cafe Piquet was quite inviting and seemed relaxed immediately, even with the traffic outside and the beaming hot sun. We ordered some Croquetas de Jamon, which were ham croquettes that were a nice size and not too greasy. For me, it was a bit too salty, but my fellow foodies enjoyed them. The next thing to do was pick my meal, which was quite difficult because the restaurant had many great choices. From sandwiches to meat entrees, the menu also included fish and seafood dishes, soups and salads, as well as some a la carte items.
Ammy suggested the Ropa Vieja, which was shredded beef that was slow cooked in wine and tomato sauce. Most dishes were served with rice and black beans, or what they called congri, which was a combination of rice, black beans, and some ham bits. The beef was perfectly cooked and the texture was great. The amount of the congri was a lot, and it was a great bang for the buck.
I opted for a combination platter, called Carnaval Cubano, which included the Ropa Vieja, Masitas, and Boliche. Masitas were fried pork chunks that were tender and delicious. Boliche was beef roast stuffed with sausage, topped with this onion gravy sauce. The best part of the whole dish was the Mojo sauce on top, which seemed to be simply garlic in a nice oil sauce. This was definitely for the garlic lover.
What made the dish actually even better was the hot sauce. They weren’t kidding when they said it was spicy, and I wasn’t exactly sure what was in it. It was green, so I assumed some sort of pepper, with some spices. So, the combination of the tender beef, rice and black beans, Mojo garlic sauce, and the spicy sauce, the meal was worth every penny. And to even top everything off, no Cuban dish could be a real Cuban dish until some sweet plantains sneaked through from your dish within all the other great stuff. Not only did most dishes came with the rice and black beans, there were options for fried yucca fries, plantains, boiled yucca with garlic sauce, or this smashed fried plantain thing (what I learned later was called tostones) that came with the Ropa Vieja.
Eddie ordered the Palomilla, which was thinly cut and grilled top sirloin, topped with some grilled onions. With all the elements of the side dishes and sauces, it all pulled together so well.
There were a lot of food, a lot of flavors, and we still wanted dessert. Flan and tres leches were ordered, but even though they were great, none really stood out to take a bow. Maybe Cafe Piquet just wanted to shine with their main dishes, and that was fine by me.