New Havana Taking Shape on Commercial Drive

We recently announced some big changes underway at Havana on Commercial Drive, the venerable eatery having been sold to the group that owns Postmark Brewing, Belgard Kitchen, and Vancouver Urban Winery (all located in Railtown’s old Settlement Building). They took over operations before Christmas and started renovations in February.

I know the photos above and below make it look unlikely, but the new Havana is on track to open early next week. The Cuban-inspired restaurant will be running lunch from 10am to 3pm Monday through Friday with dinner service starting at 3pm and running until late in the evening. They’ll also have a weekend brunch menu.

They’ve refined the theme of the food concept since the last time I reported on it. Chef/partner Reuben Major explains it this way: “When it comes to the food experience, guests can expect a hybrid of authentic Cuban flavours combined with Pacific Northwest style and a commitment to local suppliers. Bright, fresh, fun tastes unique to the location.”

Here are some sample dishes, taken from each menu:

Lunch

Little Havana Rice Bowl $14
crispy yuca hash, brown rice, avocado, mojo vinaigrette, cilantro, pico de gallo

Flatbread Lechon $15
porchetta, sweet plantains, white cheddar, mojo onions

Cubano $14
porchetta, cracklings, honey ham, swiss cheese, dill pickles, yellow mustard, house Cuban bun, pressed


Brunch

Croque Senora $16
Cubano sandwich, fried egg, charred poblano cream sauce, yuca fries

Cubano Completo Skillet $16
braised white beans, Postmark IPA chorizo, poached eggs, tostones, charred poblano cream sauce, Cuban fry bread

Aguacate Tostones (Avocado Tostones) $11
cotija cheese, pico de gallo


Dinner

Croquetas de Media Noche $12
“midnight snack croquettes” – mojo pork, swiss, pickles, cohiba sauce

Carne $19
grilled chili rubbed skirt steak, chimichurri, cassava chips

Paella Negra $25 (for two)
squid ink, shrimp, squid, chorizo, peas, sofrito

As far as the renovations go, it’s a bit of a mess (as the photos clearly show), but it’s coming together quick. The kitchen appears to have grown considerably (gone are the two booths that fronted it); the ceilings and floors have been redone; and the black and white tile work behind the bar (pictured above) has me curious as to how the end result will look. If you can believe it, they didn’t have to trim a single tile!

The rear area (by the theatre entrance) has been dramatically improved, and not merely with splashes of colour. It looks and feels much more open than before — less an afterthought zone for spillover. Once it’s fully dressed I might even want to sit back there.

Sadly, they’re delaying the larger structural change that would open up the bar area and thus shorten one of the banquettes inside. They hope to tackle that next winter.

In the meantime, take a closer look inside and cross your fingers that they’ll launch on time…

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There are 4 comments

  1. I suspect that the new owners ethnicity is not Cuban, but I would suggest that the ethnicity of the owners or kitchen crew is somewhat important. It would not hurt to have a Cuban person cooking, or hey, how about Thai people cooking Thai food, or Italians cooking Italian food. While it is not an imperative, it is a positive factor to capture the nuances and true flavors of an ethnic cuisine.

  2. Jahvay, how does someone’s genetic makeup or cultural experience guarantee an ability to express nuance or true flavor of an ethnic cuisine? Would a local car salesman be more qualified to show the world what Canadian cuisine is versus someone born in another country that dedicated their career to coming here and learning about the regional differences, and subtleties of our national cuisine? Further, who says that anyone from Cuba wants to come to Canada and cook Cuban food all day? Especially when it would be impossible to correctly replicate the food of a country with an entirely different food culture and climate.

    Should no immigrants arrive and open restaurants cooking their native cuisine does that mean we have to eat only ‘Canadian food’?

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