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Apr 14, 2008 10:20 PM

REVIEW w/ pics: Dinner at Cuban Bistro

Remember that popular Wendy's commercial where the innocent looking grandmother would spout, "Where's the beef?" Well, substitute the word "beef" with "flavor" and that's the question I asked myself after a meal at Cuban Bistro one evening with my niece. Granted, I didn't go in with high expectations in the first place. I've never read glowing reviews about this restaurant before and although my niece, who wanted to go to Cuban Bistro, said the food was really good, let's just say that our culinary tastes are very different. However, I always keep an open mind so off we went.

Our meal started with complimentary buttered toasted bread. A nice little starter and a welcome change from just getting rolls. Then the first of the two appetizers I ordered arrived and it was the potato balls stuffed with ground beef. The ground beef could have used a bit more seasoning and the potatoes could have been a bit fluffier, but still not bad. Next were the chicken empanadas, which seemed a bit heavy to me. The chicken filling was okay, but I would have liked the empanada to be a little lighter and flakier.

Now it's time for the two mains. Ropa Vieja for me and Garlic Half Chicken for my niece. Texturally, I enjoy ropa vieja because I like the chewiness of the meat and in that, this dish delivered, which is about the only good thing I can say. When it came to flavor, I got close to zilch. It felt like the whole dish was just cooked in a tomato broth. I did add some salt, lots of pepper, but neither really enhanced my meal.

Curious, I sampled a little bit of the Garlic Half Chicken and while my niece was enjoying her meal, I couldn't for the life of me understand why. Just looking at her dish, I was expecting to see some garlic cloves, but there was none. I was expecting to taste garlic in the marinade that this chicken may have been soaking in earlier, but my tastebuds went away disappointed.

With appetizers that were just okay and entrees that were beyond disappointing, I didn't even want to try any of the desserts although some of them looked appealing just because I didn't want to deal with a triple strike.

Overall, the answer to "Where's the flavor?" is definitely not to be found at Cuban Bistro.

To see pics, go to:

Cuban Bistro
28 W Main St
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 308-3350


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  1. Sorry, but I really have to wonder whether you ate at a Cuban Bistro in an alternate universe, because the one I've been to in Alhambra always serves up a tasty plate of food for a reasonable price. I've had both of the mains you mentioned on more than one occasion, and have found both the Ropa and the traditional chicken to have plenty of flavor; plenty of citrus & garlic in the chicken in particular.

    I generally ignore the appetizers, which I have found to be underwhelming; plus, the main dishes are more than enough food for one person anyway. But as to the lack of flavor...anytime I bring home that chicken, the aroma lasts in my car for several days. Seriously.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jack Flash

      I'm glad that you've had great experiences. I can only speak of my own and it was very underwhelming for me. Perhaps, it was an off night when I went. That happens, but I can't write about great food that I didn't have. Believe me, I'd rather have a great meal than a mediocre one.

      1. re: pleasurepalate

        My one and only visit was for lunch a couple years ago... I had a very similar experience with mediocre food which I recall thinking was grossly overpriced for lunch.

    2. Assuming your niece is a budding adult in her teens, I have given up on the taste buds of teenagers altogether. I think they have a completely different set of standards from adults, as I have experienced the very same thing you have through my own stepdaughter: Todai sushi, big macs, etc, etc. It simply hasn't been developed yet.

      1. This entire place sucks.

        It's like a schitzo restaurant -- half the time it wants to be a nightclub and the other half it's masquerading as a restaurant.

        The biggest surprise to me is that this place has been able to hang around for so long. Four or five years now, I think.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I've never understood the hatred this place gets. The food's pretty cheap and plentiful. To me, anyway, the chicken, masitas de puerco and palomilla are all quite tasty and reasonably priced (everything's about $14 or $15). The mojitos are good.. Other than the fact that it is indeed LOUD when there are more than 3 people in the joint (that would be the nightclub aspect, I suppose), I don't understand the hate.

          1. re: Jack Flash

            The food is, how do you say?, just not very good.

            I guess we can agree to disagree.