i had their seafood soup last week--it was tasty. it's all about the broth: rich seafood flavor, served with rice in the soup. some chunks of fish, a mussel, some shrimp and some of that fake crabmeat stuff. i don't much care for that fake crabmeat anywhere, and the shrimp were small and not too flavorful. but on the whole, the broth w/rice and fish, plus bread for dipping was good. about $8 for a lunch-size portion.
i had heard other CHs raving about their cubano for ages, so when they finally reopened i made a point of trying one. not bad, but the frenzied raving about the sandwich left me baffled. the chez henri one is definitely better (and definitely more than 2X as expensive.)
both times i've been there, the service has been frightful: despite *enormous* numbers of employees, the service is sloooow, disorganized and somewhere between surly and cold. still, all in all, i agree with oystershucker: i'm glad it's back in business, it's a solid neighborhood place, and if you can get past the service, the food's solid.
Have the menu and preparation changed at all since they re-opened? I ask since I truly want to love the place but have always been disappointed with the food there. Perhaps that is because I expect to get Cuban food, and what they serve is more of a Hispanic Caribbean melange. Pintos instead of black beans, mofongos (not a Cuban dish at all), and so forth. The most puzzling thing was the the time I ordered a Cubano there and they served something with lettuce on it. Lettuce, on a Cubano? Unheard of! When I lived in JP, I usually went to Miami Restaurant across the street. It is a bit more like a local diner, but also cheaper for what seems to me to be equal or higher quality foods. And there is never lettuce on the Cubano.
Went there a few weeks ago - I was underwhelmed again; it ain't that much better post-fire.
Cuban sandwich was good but not nearly as good as Chez Henri's.
Mufungo wasn't bad - nice and garlicky, but overall nothing great.
Red snapper was pretty bland considering the ingredients: braised in peppers, onions and lots of chopped garlic.
But espresso for $1 - what a great deal!
A number of people were eating the steak w/onions and liver w/onions ... may give that a shot if I'm ever out there again.
Their oxtail soup sounded intriguing - thoughts anyone?
Overall, I'm glad they're back open as lots of folks seem to like it and it's nice to see a neighborhood staple get back on their feet.
But overall, I can't say I was impressed with my meals there thus far.
I went back to El Oriental this past Wednesday and the food was outstanding, though the service was quite slow and disorganized. The coffee machine had been delivered that day but had not been hooked up yet, so I will need to return for my cafe con leche fix. The place looks beautiful.
re: Velda Mae
Just finished my first cafe con leche from the new El Oriental. It was smooth and delicious! The dude who made it very nicely gave me a plastic spoon so I could taste it and adjust the sugar to my taste. The cafe was hopping at 2pm, can't wait to go back for my cubano and some platanos.