Oftentimes, hole-in-the-wall restaurants produce excellent food. Casavana Cuban Cuisine is in a small shopping center and unless you are scoping it out, you just might miss it. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that Casavana actually has a total of four locations. Way to expand, eh? Regardless, Miami is home to an endless number of Cuban restaurants; however, what stood out about Casavana’s Miami Lakes location was the upscale Latino ambiance that still had a familial feel to it, quite nice.
Now, a round of applause for Casavana since they served buttered Cuban toast to start! I may be partial as a bread lover but simplicity is bliss. To drink, I had a freshly made orange and carrot juice. Several Cuban restaurants and cafeterias have this popular beverage and I have even seen it bottled for sale. I liked that the server asked me if I wanted ice or not. Believe it or not, there is a difference in flavor accentuation depending on whether the juice is cold as opposed to room temperature. It may be psychological however, when the orange and carrot juice is cold, the orange flavor is quite pronounced. When at room temperature, the juice seems to taste more natural. I will not influence a bias by stating which form I had, you will simply have to try it both ways.
I enjoyed my meal in the company of my best friend of nearly thirteen years. Chicharrón de pollo is what she ordered and what a good choice it was. This translates to chicken cracklings but in simplest terms, the dish is Casavana’s version of Cuban fried chicken. The pieces of chicken were not fatty or greasy; instead, they were crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and extremely flavorful. An onion lover may have been in favor of the wilted vinegary onions but my best friend and I just pushed them off to the side.
I had the palomilla steak which is basically a thin steak cut from the top sirloin. The steak may also be cut from a bottom sirloin but this usually yields a tougher steak. Simply seasoned, the steak was tender and juicy. It was served with a raw diced onion and parsley mixture which I did not care much for so I simply pushed these off to the side as well. The restaurant offers several sides to choose from but their congrí, or rice with black beans, was seasoned and cooked perfectly. I also enjoyed the fried yellow plantains which gave the dish a sweet and savory twist. It was evident that the plantains were previously frozen but the quality was just fine. Moreover, such a concept of using previously frozen plantains is understandable in a restaurant operation.
Unfortunately, there was not enough room for dessert but I was satisfied with my delicious meal and our server was friendly as well as attentive. On a scale from one to four mouthfuls, one being poor and four being excellent, Casavana Cuban Cuisine was quite good, earning three mouthfuls.
16435 NW 67th Ave
Miami Lakes, FL
By Miami Food Critic, Héctor F. Mañón