Hours: 10am to midnight
Much like the Pan-American ethos that shaped Cuba s revolution and consolidation, the menu embraces more than just the respective island s culinary pleasures. The menu is filled with famous dishes from around Latin America, from burritos and nachos to tortas and quesadillas. But fear not, the best parts of Cuba s rich culinary history has not been left by the wayside. Most importantly, in this reviewer s opinion, is the cook s unrestrained use of black beans, an island favourite and delicious counterpart to several of the lounge s dishes.
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Price: 15,000-75,000VND (from US$0.5 to $4)
The first floor of the cafe lounge, with whitewashed walls, high ceilings and a minimalist decor, has ample seating space with comfortable white-leather couches and a bar that subtly imbues Cuban nationalism with its white exterior, red chairs and blue neon lights that coincides with the country s flag that hangs from the mezzanine. The cafe lounge has an extensive list of classic Cuban cocktails on their drink menu, which includes seven different mojitos, daiquiris, and the traditional peasant drink Guarapo. But lovers of American-produced Bacardi will find no love here. The cafe lounge proudly serves only Cuban-made Havana Club rum.
The walls of the first floor are decorated with broad revolutionary-themed canvasses and a large, faithful mural of the Ministry of Interior building in Havana, which includes the metal sculpture of Che Guevara and the air conditioner ducts that don the side of the building. The establishment goes beyond and does not indulge in the traditional use of the icon. The cafe also introduces its customers to relevant figures and elements of Cuba s history including Jose Marti, Camilo Cienfuegos, the Castro brothers and Afro-Cuban culture. Hanging on the walls throughout the cafe lounge are photos taken of everyday Cuban life by David Lemke, who was in Cuba in 2005.
If the first floor is a glimpse into the potential future of Cuban minimalist design, then the second floor is a reverent reproduction of the classic Cuban dancehall. This narrow room, complete with hard wood floors and a brightly coloured mural that faithfully uses shades of Caribbean colour, suffices as a lounge most nights, but on a couple nights out of the week is a place for Hanoians to boogie.
On Friday nights, members of Ha Noi s small, but vibrant Salsa community, can be found rapaciously dancing on the second floor. But be warned, the dancers at Cuba s Salsa Night are no scrubs and will make the average flat-footed bystander look like a raging fool if they manage to find their way onto the dance floor. Luckily, for Hanoians, who lack rhythm or have just never been exposed to Salsa before, the cafe offers free lessons on Monday nights.
On most Saturdays in the month, the venue hosts a variety of DJ s who have been known to play experimental jazz, Bossa Nova, drum and bass, soul and hip-hop. The cafe lounge in its short tenure has also hosted a sprinkling of live acts from across the globe, including a Cuban act that currently resides in HCM City.
But Cuba is more than just a restaurant, cafe lounge, or dancehall. It s a site of intersection. A place that doesn t discriminate against any culture or customer, but rather embraces, its patrons cultures and their respective interests. It s not unusual at Cuba to listen to a Japanese DJ play John Coltrane and then on the following night relax as an Englishman spins the rhythmic vibrations of Fela Kuti.
With free dance lessons, classy cocktails, a sleek lay-out, International DJs, and a Pan-American menu, Cuba brings a taste of the Carribean to SE Asia. VNS
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