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Cuban sandwiches - Chez Henri vs. Montrose Spa

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Dax Mar 4, 2004 12:06 PM

With all this relatively warm weather recently, I have been hankerin' for some warmer clime foods. So Tuesday night I called Chez Henri for a takeout cuban sandwich. I was in the neighborhood and called from my car and miraculously found a parking spot fairly soon after calling.

I went into Chez Henri, was told 10 minutes, and walked to the little liquor store around the corner for cervesas. While they didn't have any Cuban offerings to my knowledge, I grabbed a 6 of Pacifico and was told to hit Montrose spa for limes. When I was there (7:30 PM) the guy was still making sandwiches so I ordered a Cuban to go with my limes. Grabbed the takeout from Chez Henri and drove back to Bay Village, quite giddy the whole time that I had two cubans and wasn't going to let the various traffic snafus spoil my mood. I think I ran to my apartment with the goods in hand. Getting inside, I opened the two little takeout boxes for the Chez Henri, telling Montrose he was on standby.

I must admit I was dissapointed with what I saw. The small salad of field greens which normally accompanies the sandwich (for $11.50) had been replaced by a small glop of overly dressed greens. And since it shares the box with the plaintain chips, 1/2 of those were a soggy mess too. To add insult to injury, they put the salsa for the chips directly on the chips - I thought it usually came on the side in a little container? Either way, neither of those apps would keep me away from the sandwich. My first bite however wasn't up to par - the bread was overly toasted and somewhat stale. And there was no spice! That is usually my favorite part about the sandwich. Spice, why hast thou forsaken me? The meats used were once again top shelf, I love their pork. Finally, one 1/2 of the sandwich seemed to be missing a good portion of the bottom piece of the bread. Alas, this time wasn't a complete loss but it was subpar considering the many perfect Cubans I've had there. In MB's post below, MB notes that the quality varies. C'est la vie. I'll return to see if they hit perfection again, but this incident marred by perfect record with them - what if after I rave about them one of my friends gets on of these instead of the normal masterpiece?

Purely for science and the tireless pursuit of Cuban sandwich perfection for the hounds, I ate about 1/2 the sandwich from Montrose. Very good. The meats were all sliced this, not the bigger hunks of pork (ie similar to pulled pork) found at El Oriental de Cuba or quite as good as the pork on the CH version, but quite tasty nonetheless (in fact, I just finished the 2nd half for lunch just now). The bread was perfect and pressed well. I like this $5 sandwich. It was better than Tuesday's CH version, but not up to CH's usual offering. The sandwich sign was for Boar's Head.

oh yeah, and the Pacifico's worked pretty well washing it all down.

Dax

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  1. c
    chowcat Mar 4, 2004 12:51 PM

    OK, so how do both of these compare with the Plough & Stars version?
    (I need to advise my Florida-raised mother about which one to try first.)

    3 Replies
    1. re: chowcat
      d
      Dax Mar 4, 2004 01:21 PM

      The P&S version is about the only one I haven't tried. It's next on my agenda.

      1. re: Dax
        d
        Dax Mar 4, 2004 01:32 PM

        Out of the places I've tried, it would go something like this.

        1) Chez Henri
        2) El Oriental de Cuba
        3) Miami Restaurant (JP) - nearly a tie with EOdC
        4) Montrose Spa
        5) Miami Cafe (South End)
        6) Squealing Pig

        last place: the cafeteria at Mt. Sunapee. What was I thinking?

        1. re: Dax
          g
          GretchenS Mar 4, 2004 01:42 PM

          how does the Sunapee cafeteria version compare to El Tiante's at Fenway?? ;)

    2. i
      Italophile Mar 4, 2004 01:15 PM

      Has anyone else had City Bar's? I have to admit I think it's really luscious, incongruous as the surroundings may be. Would love a "hear, hear" (or is it "here, here"?) to make me feel less embarrassed.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Italophile
        r
        Rubee Mar 4, 2004 02:19 PM

        Hi Italophile:

        I have to preface this by saying that I've never had a Cuban anywhere else in Boston (yet) but I LOVE the one at City Bar too.

        1. re: Rubee
          i
          Italophile Mar 4, 2004 03:49 PM

          Yay! Love those homemade pickles it comes with too.

      2. p
        pigletthepug Mar 4, 2004 02:08 PM

        pardon my ignorance, but what is cuban sandwich? what's in it, and what's the taste like?

        thx!

        1 Reply
        1. re: pigletthepug
          d
          Dax Mar 4, 2004 02:37 PM

          I'm no expert, but they generally are pressed sandwiches with sliced ham, sliced or pulled roast pork, sliced pickles, and a mild cheese. It's sometimes served with shredded lettuce, various sauces, mayo, mustard. The recipes vary by restaurant. I like the ones that add spicy peppers.

          Image: http://www.lacubanarestaurant.com/san...

        2. s
          Scrubjay Mar 4, 2004 02:20 PM

          This may elevate me into food snob status, but have you taken a good look around the Montrose Spa food prep area? I've had their sandwich (not bad, but never food nirvana) and with every bite wonder if it will bite back in a few hours.

          Stick with Chez Henri and a closed kitchen. Pure heaven.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Scrubjay
            d
            Dax Mar 4, 2004 02:30 PM

            Dude I eat bahn mi every week too. What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger. Well, until you die and all that.

            The guy wore gloves and washed his hands while I watched him work. Could have been because I was watching him, but ...

            1. re: Scrubjay
              y
              yumyum Mar 4, 2004 03:06 PM

              I've never gotten sick from the Cubans at Montrose. I think it's a great sandwich at a great price.

              1. re: Scrubjay
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                trappedfoodie Mar 4, 2004 08:33 PM

                I understand your squeamishness when it comes to dirty prep areas, but as long as there are no cucarachas or people snotting into food, its OK my me. I think my standards are closer to yumyum and Dax's. I just think what I would be missing if I avoided my favorite diner in New York where the chef would smoke in the kitchen or noodle stalls in Thailand, or congee shacks in China, or dok carts in Korea. If the food is good, I've gotta try it. Montrose seems a lot cleaner than other places I've enjoyed and they have damn good sandwiches to boot (see my post in previous Cubano thread).

              2. j
                joypirate Mar 4, 2004 03:05 PM

                Have you tried the porchetta panini from Artu? I'm wondering how it stacks up and if it's comparable. If I can pull myself away from the lamb next time I'll pick one up myself.

                1 Reply
                1. re: joypirate
                  9
                  9lives Mar 4, 2004 06:28 PM

                  The porchetta at Artus is a good sandwich..but very different from a Cuban. It's just like the lamb, sort of shaved thin. No ham or cheese. I suppose you could ask them to do an "Italian Cuban"..put some ham, cheese, and pickles on the porchetta. Might be good.

                2. a
                  Alex S Mar 4, 2004 03:16 PM

                  I've had the Montrose sandwich maybe 25 times and the CH sandwich around 50 times. What you describe sounds about 15-20th percentile Chez Henri - my usual sandwich there has nice grain mustard, bread properly buttered before grilling, flavorful gruyere and aoli, etc. That said, they occasionally screw it up. I also think the CH sandwich suffers way more in transit than Montrose - you just have to eat it right there.

                  As for Montrose, I think there's really no comparison. It's an OK cheap dinner, but (1) the bread, meat and cheese is MUCH lower quality, (2) you miss out on the mustard, cornichons, aoili of CH (not to mention the sides), (3) their grill works poorly, so either the bread is charred and dry or, more commonly, the meats and cheeses are poorly heated. It's $13 with tax and tip vs. $5.50, but the difference is well worth it for me.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Alex S
                    d
                    Dax Mar 4, 2004 03:45 PM

                    Didn't the CH Cubans used to be spicy?

                    I've eaten both take out and sit in before and never had one as poor as the other night. If I'm paying $13 for a sanwich, I'd say it should be better than ok 80-85% of the time.

                  2. e
                    El Guapo Mar 4, 2004 03:25 PM

                    My understanding has always been - from Cuban friends - that a traditional Cubano simply has roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on pressed french bread. For that reason, I've tended to rate the Montrose version pretty high. The Miami and El Oriental versions often come with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes - which horrified those same friends. I've never had the CH version, but it sounds good, though it better be at almost three times the price of the Montrose.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: El Guapo
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                      galleygirl Mar 4, 2004 04:36 PM

                      You have to tell the folks at Miami Cafe (South End) to go "no mayo" (sin mayo?) on everything; if you're not careful, they'll put it on their otherwise superlative stewed octopus sandwich...Sheesh....

                    2. n
                      Nab Mar 4, 2004 07:35 PM

                      i stopped in to An Tua Nua for a burger/beer with a friend last week and noticed they have a cubano on the menu among other panini-pressed sammiches. not that i'd expect it to be killer bees, but anybody try it ? in the name of scientific method, they're all gonna have to be had. get on the scene dax !

                      1. j
                        jtw Mar 6, 2004 01:05 PM

                        I used to work right across the street from Montrose Spa. I ate a cuban a week easy.

                        It's a remarkably consistent offering at the Spah. It's definitely not the gourmet fancy cubano sandwich, but the bread is always good, the pork always tasty, and made in front of your eyes. Not bad at all for $5. Wash it down with jarritos at lunch. I didn't see the $8 increased benefit at chez henri, somehow...though it was a fine place for a strong drink after work.

                        jtw

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