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Apr 23, 2002 09:42 AM

el oriental de cuba underwhelmed me

  • w

maybe expectations just ran too high after all the raves i've heard & read, but we schlepped out to jp. had a cuban sandwich, fried plantains, a chocolate batido. it was not bad -- just ehhhh. what gives? maybe i'll have to give chez henri's cubans a try.

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  1. Among the best Cuban sandwiches I've had is the one at Plough and Stars on Mass Avenue, beween Central and Harvard Square. They only serve lunch, and the menu changes every day, EXCEPT the one thing they have every day is the Cuban. Maybe not the type of thing you'd expect to find at an Irish pub, but VERY good.

    8 Replies
    1. re: C. Simon

      I was just talking about that sandwich with someone. I didn't have it the one time I was at the Plough but damn, it looked good as it went by. Huge and worth the $7 or 8 it looked like. I've had the Cubanos at El Oriental and Miami once each and they were fine but the fancy ones seem like they might be a little better.

      1. re: Joanie

        They are big. You're right. Two people could even split a Plough and Stars Cuban for an average-sized lunch.

        1. re: Joanie

          Of course at some point a Cuban sandwich ceased to be a Cuban sandwich-- just an offshoot of the original concept. Not that it might not be better than the original.

        2. re: C. Simon

          What do you think of the Cuban sandwich at Panera's? It somehow seemed to be missing some flavor from the ones I've had in Miami, but I haven't tried the other places you mentioned, and maybe the New England versions are all alike in this.

          1. re: groaker

            no way -- they have cubanos at panera?!

            is the same panera as the ones that were formerly known as the st. louis bread company? or is this some other panera?

            1. re: winnie

              The same. They are now owned by the company that also owns Au Bon Pain.

            2. re: groaker

              I had one, it was horrible. Very greasy, and little resemblance to a traditional cubano. I may be wrong, but I believe they were just removed from the menu, at least in Framingham.

              1. re: Alan H

                Hmmm. Don't remember it being particularl greasy, just sort of lacking in flavor. Of course, being a chain, the preparation can vary from one location to another.

          2. I agree -- I suppose I too was expecting something fabulous and only had something okay. I missed the Mojo (?) sauce that I've had on other Cubano's -- that garlicky, vinegary, spicy green paste -- and didn't appreciate the mayonnaise substitute. Try the Chez Henri version and let us know! The one at the Plough sounds great too. You could be the official Cubano authority on this board if you so choose....

            1. just an aside:

              strangely, i was also disappointed by the cubano i had at hi-rise in harvard sq. it seemed of higher quality than el oriental, as i recall (my visit was months ago), but that's not necessarily a good or bad thing. just different -- i suppose because of the demographic they're serving (i mean, it was also twice as expensive as oriental's). in fact, my reaction to each was probably comparable. and again, it wasn't bad, just memorably unmemorable if you know what i mean. perhaps that was the wrong sandwich to choose at hi-rise. sadly, i'm uninclined to go back. mostly because i believe i can better satisfy my cravings for the ultimate sandwich at darwin's. (oh, if only they offered a version of the cubano...)

              1 Reply
              1. re: winnie

                Re the Hi-Rise, I'd give them another try. Their prices are pretty outrageous, but I'd give their sandwiches a slight edge over Darwin's. (though that may be a matter of personal preference, as they say on Iron Chef.) I like their cuban-ish sandwich well enough, but the two that really make me swoon are the grilled smoked pork loin on toasted corn bread (a yeasted corn loaf) with cole slaw; and the turkey and cheese (jack? havarti?? I can't remember) on semolina with avocado and russian dressing, grilled. I'm not sure if they have both of these at the Harvard Square branch, which has a more limited menu than the bakery in West Cambridge.

                The place does deserve its nickname (Hi-Price), but somehow spending 7.50 on a really top-notch sandwich doesn't bother me, while paying a buck for a truly tiny cookie (or over 2 bucks for a good-sized cookie) is harder to swallow.

              2. As a rule Boston has a real dearth of decent authentic Latino food. Having just gotten back from an awesome Dominican Meal in NYC I got my fix.

                That said, Izzie's which is a tiny place on Harvard Street just outside Central Square is the best I have found in the area including some of the places in Eastie and Chelsea.

                That said, Izzie's is Puerto Rican and I am not 100% sure they have Cuban Sandwiches, though they do serve a mean Ropa Vieja when it is on the specials list.