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Cana Cuban Parlor & Cafe, Oakland - any reports?

  • hhc Mar 1, 2011 12:05 PM

I read that Cana Cuban Parlor & Cafe opened recently in Oakland. They have:
Cubano sandwiches
empanadas
bocadillos
Cuban black beans & rice
Serve Blue Bottle Coffee
Chocolate chip cookies

Any reports?

Cana Cuban Parlor & Cafe
530 Lake Park Ave
Oakland
510-832-1515
http://www.canaoakland.com/
Hrs: 7a-2:30p M-Sat
Dinner hrs: Coming soon

Oakland Tribune writeup:
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandt...

-----
Blue Bottle Cafe
66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

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  1. Ah, the old Taza de Cafe guy. Their food was pretty good.

    1. why not give it a spin and tell us...?

      1. I like this place. The space is really attractive, although there's almost no indoors seating yet (from the Trib article hhc linked, it looks like they're renovating the space next door). The kitchen is disproportionately large - it looked to be 2-3X the size of the miniscule front - and had way more employees than I'd expect for a space this size. Maybe they're doing a lot of catering as well? I peered as far back as i could see, and I saw what I thought were several large marble pastry slabs - from the quality of the pastry in the breakfast empanada (super light and flaky) and the pastel de guayaba (tender-crisp), I believe that the pastry is made in-house.

        I've had the empanada con huevo (the aforementioned flaky pastry, wrapped around scrambled egg, ham, and queso fresco, and deep fried to order), which was excellent, and possibly the best value on the menu at $3 (my takeout menu says $4, but I could swear it was $3 on the chalkboard). I tried the tiny and intense Cafe Cubano - sugar without milk isn't really my style, but I wanted to see what it was like, esp with Blue Bottle beans. I also tried the Cubano sandwich, which was a touch too salty for me.

        The pastel de guayaba was terrific, with guava mixed throughout the sweet cheese filling, then topped with a guava glaze, on that excellent buttery crust. The pastries all look great, if a bit pricey, and seem to change with some frequency. I wish I'd written down the selection I saw the day before - I just remembered there was an interesting mix of classic pastries and classics with a modern twist.

        I'd say in general, everything's a little pricier, smaller, and slower to come out than I'd expect, but the quality is also very high. I look forward to working my way through the menu.

        -----
        Blue Bottle Cafe
        66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        5 Replies
        1. re: daveena

          Pastel de guayaba! Haven't seen one of the Bay Area for a few years now, thanks for mentioning it.

          -----
          Cana Cuban Parlor & Cafe
          530 Lake Park Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I don't have much experience with Cuban food - the only other pastel de guayaba I've ever had was from the Cafe Versailles in the Miami airport - it was more of a turnover-type, rustic hand-held pastry, so that's what I thought I was ordering. Caña's is definitely a Frenchified, refined version. But it is very, very good.

            1. re: daveena

              My experience with pastelito de guayaba is only N=3. Here's the first one I tried from a Dominican bakery in Harlem,
              http://home.earthlink.net/~melainewon...
              The other two were pale imitations, one from Cafe Lo Cubano in SF (now closed) and the other from a Cuban-Calif bakery in San Diego.

          2. re: daveena

            Tried the breakfast empanada w/ egg, ham, and queso fresco (definitely $4 now) today. Not a lot of actual "ham" that I could detect (more just the grease that had cooked out of some kind of chorizo or something), but pretty tasty. We also got an order of the regular picadillos ($8 for 2), which were great, packed with a generous amount of well-seasoned ground beef filling that was specked with slightly-sweet raisins. Everything was on the greasy side, but not in a bad way. The woman at the counter said you could mix and match the empanadas, so they're all basically $4 a pop. I think the other two options were both vegetarian, or vegetable-based anyway.

            We also got an order of the tostones with mojo sauce. These were expertly fried with a nice crunch to them, but a little bland-tasting without the sauce. And the sauce itself was sweeter than I would have liked. At $4 for just five or six (large-ish) pieces, I thought this was on the pricey side.

            I didn't mind the Cafe Cubano, but for this kind of sweet coffee drink, I think I'd rather get a Vietnamese coffee and have a whole cupful for the same price instead of just a small shot. (I assume they used a shot of the Blue Bottle espresso, but with all that sugar, the coffee flavor didn't seem any more intense than what you'd get with strongly brewed drip coffee.) Too sweet for my taste too.

            Pastel de guayaba is sitting in my fridge for later.

            Sign in front said they're open for dinner now, but I didn't see if they have a separate menu for that and forgot to ask. At about 1pm on a finally-sunny Monday, the place was doing great business, with all the tables (three outside and one inside) occupied and lots of people ordering takeout.

            1. re: abstractpoet

              So far I have tried the meat empanadas, the plaintains, a few pastries and the coffee.

              Coffee: Meh. The cafe con leche was too sweet for me (well to be expected). The espresso drinks are really bitter oddly.

              Empanadas: Win, win! These are yummy.

              Plantains: inconsistent. Half the time they are undercooked. (tostones and madura). Of the 4 times I have had them, they have only been cooked properly once. Not sure if I will give it another try.

              Rice and beans: bland unfortunately. The rice was a little sticky.

              I haven't tried the main plates yet. It seems they are about $1-2 too expensive. I'll need to go with a bigger group.

              Pastries: very good.

              So far, 3 stars out of 5. The empanadas will keep me coming back.

          3. The Cubano sandwich was probably one of the meatier examples however the roast pork was a tad dry. The cheese was there and runny melted. The pickles could have been sourer but I did like the sandwich. Possibly Mikey's is better but Cana is closer and no bridge.

            1. Got a few items to go off the newish dinner menu tonight. Overall, I liked the food a bit less than what we'd tried for lunch. Wanted the Cuban Fried Chicken but they were sold out, so we got the Lechon Asado ($12). It was OK, but the flavor profile is a bit on the sour side (my wife hated this, actually). Not sure if that's traditional. For $6 more, they made it into a meal and included rice and beans (listed on the menu as "Christianos y Moros") and plantains. The plantains were very sweet and were served with a whipped cream-like crema, so it was more of a dessert than a side dish. I guess this would be my main complaint about the food at Cana: Sometimes it runs a bit sweeter or more sour than I'd like it to, especially the sauces. Again, don't know if that makes it inauthentic or very authentic.

              We also tried the veggie picadillo, which has a filling made up mostly of ground mushrooms. Pretty good, but the beef version is better.

              On the other hand, the Chocolate-Ancho Chili cookie I got for dessert was excellent. Chewy, nutty, coated in powdered sugar. Not very spicy, but enough of a kick to keep things interesting.

              6 Replies
              1. re: abstractpoet

                The traditional pork marinade is mostly sour orange juice. Platanos maduros are sweet, tostones (made with green plantains) are not.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I'm aware that fried plantains are usually sweet; these were just especially so. I didn't dislike them, but they just felt more like a dessert than anything else--the whipped cream "dip" that came with them made this especially true.

                  And while the tostones at Cana aren't sweet, the mojo sauce that comes with them is quite sweet. I've not had many restaurant versions of tostones, so I don't know if that's typical or not.

                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    I usually find Cuban maduros too sweet and dessert-like.

                    I don't think I've ever had sweet mojo.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Have had a similar experience at Havana, in Alameda (I guess they changed the name to "Habanas" now?). We ordered the "mixed grill", and it came with a sweet sauce very similar to what they serve with the tostones at Cana. In both cases, it was off-putting (even more so at Havana). And the food at Havana struck me as distinctly inauthentic (and just not that good)--though, like I said, I don't know enough about the cuisine to say that with any authority.

                      And yeah, if this is a representative example, then I think I prefer the plantain preps in Caribbean cooking and South American cooking.

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                      Habanas
                      1518 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

                      1. re: abstractpoet

                        I didn't find the food at Havana inauthentic. It sounds like you don't like Cuban food much, which is blander than other Caribbean food.

                        BTW the too sweet plaintains might have been fried bananas. Local restaurants including Paladar have been known to substitute them. San Miguel not only served fried bananas as plantains, they sprinkled sugar on them.

                        1. re: Windy

                          "It sounds like you don't like Cuban food much, which is blander than other Caribbean food."

                          That's possible. Though I certainly do enjoy a Cubano sandwich when it's done well, I've rarely met an empanada that I don't like, and I do like tostones--but I think what I had in the past were the Puerto Rican kind, and they weren't served with a sweet sauce. (As I mentioned, the tostones at Cana are actually quite good, if not the best value; I just don't really like that sauce.)

                          Authentic or not, I just wasn't all that impressed by the food at Havana/Habanas: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4769...

              2. Overall, I liked the Cubano from Cana. there was a decent amount of moist, flavorful meat and I liked the chibatta like bread.

                the Oakland Tribune link in the OP mentions hot mustard, but the sandwich was on the sweet side. it tasted like they put some of the mojo (which is definitely sweet) on the sandwich.

                3 Replies
                1. re: drewskiSF

                  Lucky guy, must have been the ponytail, beret and pink parasol, my pork was dry. Otherwise good sandwich,see above.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    this area of Oakland only requires the ponytail. i can hook you up with a wig the next time you're jonesing for better pork ;-)

                    1. re: drewskiSF

                      My ponytail didn't help me.

                      I really wanted to like this sandwich but it didn't cooperate. It was actually like two different sandwiches- one side was drenched in a disturbingly sweet sauce and had no ham and the other had some nice ham and hot mustard that really added something. Both sides shared the bread which I loved, the cheese that only added texture, the pickles that couldn't decide what kind they were and the DRY, stringy pork.

                      I'm glad I tried this sandwich because I really wanted to but it is now out of my system. It wasn't worth the wait or the price tag. It's a shame because it is a cute little space and the people seem really nice.

                2. Finally made time to stop in and pick up the cubano sandwich last Saturday after a visit to the Grand Lake Farmer's Market. We decided to get 2 cubanos and 2 porchetta sandwiches from Roli Roti at the market (!!) and split them among 4 people, each getting a half of each sandwich. Holy porky goodness! Fantastic meal.

                  The worst part of the meal was the wait at Cana. It took almost 20 minutes to get our 2 sandwiches to go. Shouldn't this be a pretty quick one for them to bust out? The wait proved worth it. One of the best cubans I think I've had in a while. I thought the pork was moist and well flavored. The ham hit with a bang of hammy taste but was a bit on the greasy side. I'm not a big fan of pickles so took out a few from the sandwich and left a few in to get the taste and texture contrast. Definitely will be going back, and looking forward to trying dinner items and getting some fried maduras. They said the restaurant side won't be open for "a few more months." Must be a ton of renovating going on.

                  Decor was cute in the cafe side, but very limited seating out in front. Nice vibe with happy, friendly staff. The cooks were practically dancing in the kitchen. Hmm, maybe that's why my sandwich took 20 minutes.

                  -----
                  Roli Roti
                  , Hayward, CA

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: selectiveomnivore

                    Twenty minutes is faster than my last single Cubano to go from Versailles on Calle Ocho....

                    1. re: twocents

                      Different time zone, Cuban Standard Time.

                    2. re: selectiveomnivore

                      The cashier told me today that they are shooting for *October* for opening the "Parlor" side. She said things were going slower than they originally planned.

                      I also got another Cubano and the roast pork was distinctly darker in color and more intensely flavored than in previous ones, like some sauce was applied after chopping it up. It varied in flavor intensity on one half of the sandwich vs. the other.

                      1. re: drewskiSF

                        mi espousa cara is quite fond of cubanos, not that she's tried any in Miami, so I got her one from Caña to try. her verdict, decent enough but not close to equalling my homemade pseudo-cubano : some thinly sliced porchetta, a few slices of either la Quercia speck americano or Fatted Calf coppa, whichever is in the fridge, ementhaler cheese (sometimes with a little aged, sharp cheddar mixed in), sliced tomato from Wild Boar Farm, slice of dill pickle, whole grain mustard on either 'Pain Pascal' or Starter Bakery semolina bread, and toasted on a steel or cast iron pan under a heavy lid. it does require about twenty minutes for assembly and proper toasting.

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                        Wild Boar Farms
                        Suisun Valley, CA, Suisun Valley, CA

                        Fatted Calf
                        320 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                        Starter Bakery
                        1552 Beach Street, Suite R, Oakland, CA 94608

                        1. re: moto

                          Quality ingredients will do it every time. However, the price will be prohibitive and the tomato will have to go.