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Tasting the Cuban Menu at Versailles Culver City

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sassille May 28, 2009 01:43 PM

It seems like a lot of folks take Versailles for granted. It’s the reliable neighborhood place for Cuban-style garlic chicken. I like the homey-style of this restaurant, where the walls are lined with photo art from Habana. The pictures were lovingly taken by Raymond, one of the family offspring, who was there graciously explaining each item that we tasted. I had the good fortune to dine there twice in the last couple of months for tastings of many of the dishes I have neglected in favor of my usual order of garlic roast chicken. There is much more to Versailles’ menu than I knew about. Number one is: Cubans have their way with pork. Take, for example, their pork tamale. It looks rather ordinary until you notice it‘s served with their house citrus (mojo) sauce. It brings out the flavors in the masa. I loved it! I’ve returned after my first visit and purchased a bottle of the sauce to serve on roast pork at home. Delicious! I also favor the masitas de Puerco, a crisp chunk of marinated pork, flash fried. This reminds me of Filipino crispy pata or Mexican carnitas. You have to be a pork fan to love this stuff – and I am. Lechado Asada is a roasted shredded pork dish topped with thinly sliced onion and, yeah, mojo sauce.
I also learned that Cubanos hanker for vivid flavors over hot and spicy ones. Case in point is the Rabo Encendido which was a particular favorite of almost all the folks at our table. This is worthy of going back for. It’s oxtail, simmered for hours in Cuban spices, bell peppers and a hint of tomato. It’s featured on the plate with just a little sauce and the customary rice and black beans. It is so tangy and tender that you want to pick it up with your fingers and slurp up all that meaty goodness from the juicy nooks and crannies. Okay so, - me and my uncouth friends did just that! When I go back I will order it up with plantains on the side along with white rice and black beans. They also offer moro on the side which is a mixture of those two dishes. I love their thick, but soupy, black beans too much to mix them up with anything else. Next time I go back I will also probably share the fried red snapper. At first glance this dish appeared too crispy. It looked dry, but when I bit into it there was a definite succulence that gave a good texture to what would otherwise be a boring dish. Did I say it’s so good with the house sauce? Their paella is a little different from the one I’ve enjoyed in Spain and Portugal. Cubans serve a saucier version with hints of bell pepper, tomato, shrimp, chicken and chorizo. I like their version, it's zesty and not dry. My favorite dessert is the guayaba with cream cheese, but most folks love the flan.
So I am definitely planning on going back. The prices are good. Garlic chicken is only 10.95 for ½ a bird. Rabo is $14.95 Most dishes are between $10 and $15 and Paella is $22. I notice a brisk take-out business going on. Considering the ample portion sizes, I can see a family sharing a good meal for not too much $$. On my driving scale of 1 – 10, I would drive at least 10 miles for a good plate of Versailles comida Cubana.

Versailles
10319 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 558-3168 Phone
(310) 558-1817 Fax

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    CucumberBoy RE: sassille May 28, 2009 02:22 PM

    Thanks for the kick in the plantains. I've been going to Versailles -- the Venice Bl. location and the Encino location -- since the 1980's. I almost always have the classic roast chicken, or the roast pork, or this one simple seasoned-hamburger-with-chunks-of-green-olives dish, the name of which escapes me now.

    There are a lot of interesting items on the menu which I have relegated to second-tier status based simply on my love of the three dishes mentioned above.

    I will endeavor to try something new next time I get a hankerin' for Versailles,

    -cb-

    1. Das Ubergeek RE: sassille May 28, 2009 03:24 PM

      I liked it a lot when I lived on the Westside, but then I went back a few months ago and the white meat on the chicken was cooked to jerky (the dark meat was fine) and the pork was dry, dry, dry. I know they just carve off whatever they have -- maybe I came at an odd hour and the meat had been sitting under a heat lamp for too long.

      El Criollo in the Valley is much, much better.

      1. j
        Jase RE: sassille May 28, 2009 10:45 PM

        For Cuban in that area, I much prefer going to Rincon Criollo on Sepulveda about a mile south of Venice.

        I find the execution of their dishes better across the board. Pricing is also better.

        http://www.bestcubanfood.com/home.html

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          annapurna7 RE: sassille May 29, 2009 11:33 AM

          Being Puerto Rican and growing up in Culver City. I find Versailles ok. Our family prefers El Rincon Criollo and I have been dining there since before I could speak.

          Lechon asado is not a strong point in Versailles and, to be frank, any Cuban restaurant in the area. The closest I've gotten to good lechon asado is at Havana Mania in Lawndale and only on Tuesdays when the roast the whole pig.

          I prefer the to eat ropa vieja at Rincon Criollo. My husbands favorite is the rabo encedido at Versailles. We're actually making the rabo at home for dinner tonight.

          1. s
            schrutefarms RE: sassille May 29, 2009 11:58 AM

            I'm a big fan of Versailles-but I can't seem to stray from the roast chicken. It's just too good, with the crispy skin and marinated onions. I took myself on a "date" there (the La Cienaga location) a while back. Had an avacado salad with red wine vinagrette, roast chicken, a glass of sangria and a cappaccino, all for around $25 (including tip). Does anyone know...do they have media noches? (Cubin sanwiches made with pork and dill pickle). Are they good?

            1. l
              Low Blood Sugar RE: sassille May 29, 2009 02:10 PM

              Cuban here. I like the Versailles chain except for their Manhattan Beach location which is terrible service-wise and food-wise. Tried Rincon Criollo, didn't like their service (wasn't friendly, had a strange attitude) nor their food which I found bland.

              For the most authentic Cuban experience, I like El Colmao up in L.A. It's in a terrible neighborhood, but during the daytime it's not nearly as bad.

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