HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Oya's Cuban Cafe in Malden: get in there!

Just got home from a wonderful dinner at the recently opened Oya's Cuban Cafe. What an absolute treat and a welcome addition to Malden Center. Definitely on par with perennial Malden favorites and near neighbors, Exchange Street Bistro and All Seasons Table. At a similar price point, too.
We started with the scallops and fried pork belly appetizer. What a revelation! Perfectly cooked scallops over. The pork belly is crisp on the outside but meltingly unctuous on the inside rife with deep porky fat and flavor. All the richness cut by a (not too) sweet and smoky BBQ sauce.
Hubby had the Rancho Guajiro, slow roasted pork, sliced thin and topped with Cuban Mojo, and sautéed onions. It was served with black beans and rice and fried yucca.
My entree was the Bistec Encebellado, which consists of a 12 oz Sirloin strip steak, more Cuban Mojo and onions in a criollo style. A nice sour note to the sauce. The steak was cooked to medium (I asked for med-rare) with a nice char and good flavor. The steak came with a stack of tostones which were among some of the best I've ever tasted and the same black beans and rive that hubby had.
Presentation of food is quite lively.
Service was attentive and friendly. The interior space is really quite charming. Can't wait to go back for lunch!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Scallops and Crispy Pork Belly; Rancho Guajiro and Bistec Encebellado

    2 Replies
    1. re: UnclePH

      Uncle, thanks for the review and pictures, everything sounds and looks great.

      Is there any onsite parking? Malden is confusing and I'm heading there for dinner tomorrow night. Will be going around 5pmish...


      1. re: mcel215

        They don't have a parking lot but there is street parking on both sides of Exchange Street near the restaurant. There is also a parking garage a block away.

    2. I went there for lunch recently. Thought the chicken croquettes were really outstanding - hot and crispy outside, nice creamy (white-sauce-type) inside. The sofrito that was served alongside, though, was chilled; it had a nice flavor but I would have preferred it warm to go with the hot croquettes.

      My DC had the Minuta (fried cod) sandwich and we thought that was terrific, too. Really nice, light batter on the fish that didn't fall off when you bit into it. My Cubano had a decent amount of roast pork and the overall flavor was good, but the ham inside was still cold (even though the cheese had melted). Service was a little slow for a not-overly-busy lunch hour but the waiter was very friendly.

      Overall we liked it and will return. I'm glad that something nice went into that safe, I really miss Tivoli's. It looks like they kept a lot of the furnishings, though they took down the curtains - not really a plus IMO since the widow looks out onto the empty, cement block facade of the old Super Fitness building. Hopefully that view will improve when they build the new apartments slated for that site.

      1. I am so glad to hear this- we drove by over the weekend and I popped my head in- elegant space, very friendly staff- very much looking forward to trying it.

        1. Went back today for lunch. Enjoyed the croquettes again, and also tried the beef empanadas. They were deep-fried with a nice crispy shell; filling was ground beef with sweetish spices (cinnamon? cardamom?) and I spotted a yellow raisin or two. Very tasty, though to my taste they didn't need the sprinkle of salt on top.

          The hubs and I also shared an order of Arroz Imperial con Maduros, a tasty bowl of comfort food: yellow rice, chicken, cheese, tomato sauce, and sweet fried plantains. This was also on the salty side for my taste but hubs thought it was perfect.

          We were too full for coffee or dessert but the table next to us ordered Leche y Leche, a drink with condesned milk, coffee, and steamed 2%milk layered in a small glass. It was so pretty and I want one next time (might have to go back just for the coffee, the food is pretty filling).

          Service was noticeably faster than on our last visit, but not so that we felt rushed. I am hooked; I think they do a fine job with the fried foods, and I appreciate that the chicken in their menu items is not overcooked and dry. Looking forward to trying the rest of the menu.

          1. Went last night with my youngest son, around 6:30pm. There was no on street parking to be seen, even the whole empty parking lot at the out of business fitness place couldn't be used. It has "tow" signs all over it, what a a waste of good spots for at least 50 cars.

            We went into the Cafe, which was nearly empty. Not a good sign, but a gorgeous little room. The blue/brown decor was lovely, with live music that filled the space.

            We brought a couple bottles of beer, but was told by the owner that we couldn't consume liquor. They were waiting the final approval for their liquor license and we would have to wait until they sold liquor. He was very nice and apologized for any inconvenience. It was fine, we just drank water, which our waiter kept refilling over and over again. :)

            As above, we started with the scallop/pork belly app and it was delightful. They brought a basket of warm bread with a lucious compound butter, very fresh and delicious.

            My son ordered the lamb and said it was excellent. His was served with a saute of fresh vegetables and a square of sauteed polenta.

            I got the sirloin steak, asked for medium rare. It was medium, but it would be hard to get it right because the cut was very thin. I asked the waiter for advice, because I was torn between the salmon and the steak. He said that the steak was the best. And it was, very flavorful and juicy.

            There was a gal behind the small bar, with no bottles in sight and lots of glasses on the wall. There is a large flat screen TV, for people who wanted to watch. But it didn't interfere with the music, which played softly thoughout our dinner.

            We were too full for dessert and declined the coffee.

            The parking in the garage was $4.00 dollars and only a five minute walk.

            As we were leaving, a female opened the door for us and thanked us for coming. All of the waitstaff were extremely friendly.

            It appears to be a family run operation and hopefully they will get that liquor license soon, because I think that is the reason that the place was nearly empty. No one came in after we did and I believe only one other table was full.

            With good food and live music, this place could be a big hit for Malden.

            Dinner for two, with a shared appetizer, our bill came to only $56.00 without tip.


            1. Thanks to everyone here, I just returned from an OUTSTANDING meal at Oya. The food was delicious, the live music was fun and the atmosphere is inviting. The staff is incredibly friendly and the chef/owner came out at the end to greet us and chat.

              The scallop and pork belly appetizer was absolutely delicious. The steak was cooked perfectly and the leche y leche coffee was a real treat.

              We parked at the garage across the street and it was only $4. I highly recommend this restaurant. My wife and I agreed that it felt like we were on vacation, even though we were just a few miles from home.

              1. This is going to be another rave review. We went last saturday early evening. As others have noted, the scallop/pork belly is really quite amazing and is worth a trip alone. We got that and the cuban "slider" for apps- the latter was also quite good although it could easily be a meal in itself.

                For entree's we had the Ropa Vieja and the Imperial con Maduros (a casserole type dish). Both were delicious, especially the latter.

                The last thing I will note is the french fries. I like fries, everybody likes fries, etc., but its not exactly at the top of my list of things to order generally or at a Cuban place. Well our almost cranky 3 year old wanted an order and we relented. Man, oh man were these good fries. Clearly hand cut, salted and spiced perfectly, skin on. Just delicious. They come with the Cuban sliders FYI.

                Service was attentive and considerate. There was also live cuban music which was not overbearing. The space is quite nice.

                This is another real very chow-worthy add to the Malden dining scene. Beer and wine in about a month or so.

                1. Made another stop to Oya's last week, and still quite impressed with the restaurant. Fairly large crowd and they had a live music. More like a one man "Buena Vista Social Club".
                  I had the scallops with the "Cuban Rice" Risotto. The scallops were ever so slighly over cooked, but still quite tasty. The risotto was a real show stopper, with peas, carrots, wild yellow rice and enough garlic slices to ward off vampires. Hubby had the Arroz con Maduras, which was a cheesy casserole of Yellow Rice, pulled Chicken and sweet plantains. All in all another great meal. I notice that they are now open for lunch, too. Happy to see them doing well. We really hope they are around for a long time to come.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: Frank Enbean

                      Yes, they are. I believe that's it though. No hard liquor.

                  1. I went with friends last Friday night. The restaurant was virtually empty at 5:30pm, but by 7pm the place was hopping with people enjoying the food and a live musician.

                    My friend and I shared 3 appetizers for our meal: Mini Cuban Sliders ($10), Chicharrones y Vieiras (Seared Scallops and Crispy Pork Belly) ($10) and Beef Empanadas ($8).

                    The empanadas were delicious, a blend of beef, spices and olives. The crust was flaky and not too greasy.

                    I really love Cuban sandwiches so I was looking forward to trying Oya’s. The sliders were cute mini sandwiches, but the pork and ham were dry. The worse part is that the pickle was served on the side as a single spear. That’s just wrong. I did enjoy the crispy wedge fries that came with the sliders.

                    My favorite appetizer was the unctuous pork belly with the perfectly seared scallop. It didn’t taste particularly Cuban to me, but it was delicious.

                    My other friend had the sirloin steak ($20). I thought it was a little tough, but flavorful. It came with dry tostones, but excellent black beans and rice.

                    Even though we were full, we couldn’t resist sharing the bread pudding ($6). It was served warm, with a scoop of ice cream and caramel sauce. I usually find bread pudding boring, but the deep caramel notes and the contrast between the crusty exterior and soft, tender interior mixed with the cool ice cream was sublime.

                    Our server was friendly and attentive. The bread basket contained plain rolls, but they were warm, which elevates all bread. I loved the herbed butter that came with the basket. The portions were large and the prices are extremely reasonable. There is easy on street parking. The live music was a nice touch.


                    1. Went there for lunch, nice inside, very clean and good service but, that’s where the good news ends so far.

                      Ordered two lunch entrée’s, f1st, Arroz Imperial con Maduros a baked casserole layers of yellow Rice, pulled Chicken seasoned with Cuban Spices, topped cheese The dish was mostly rice very little chicken to be found, very disappointing. The rice was flavorful, the chicken was MIA.

                      2nd, Rancho Guajiro a slow roasted pork with caramelized onions, Cuban Mojo, with a black bean rice and fried yuca. The roast pork consisted of 3 thin deli sliced, like bologna, pieces of pork. The star on this entrée was the black bean rice, great spices and really flavorful. The fried yuca just came along for the ride, crisp but, flavorless. Would not order again but, would order a side of the black bean rice.

                      Dessert, Pudín de Pan con Dulce de Leche y Helado, wonderful warm bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. Awesome, worth the trip and the highlight of lunch.

                      I hope to get back and try the cubnano sandwich, saw a few orders come out and it looked good. I also want to come back during dinner to try other entrée’s.

                      I give at least three attempts before writing off, one down 2 to go. I hope it improves.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: treb

                        Back for lunch today, had the Cubano. Nice bread well pressed and crunchy, a good amount of stretchy swiss cheese melted to perfection. Pickles, paper thin, like see through, I like them much thicker, adds more flavor. Got it with salad, nice field green mix but, bottled balsamic dressing, not good. Wish they'd make their own. Overall, a good representation of a Cubano sandwich. Next attempt will be dinner soon.