Saturday, October 20, 2007

Passport #5 Havana Nights-La Bodeguita de Pico

Havana is truly an amazing city.It's timelocked state is unique in this disposable world of fast food and short attention spans.Adults play dominos in the street at midnight under a functioning streetlight.Groups of revelers sing sweet songs on the malecon to the hypnotic clave, and children race down the pavement in homemade scooters crafted from crates and spare parts.La Rampa, La Habana Vieja,Miramar, Parque Central, Central, all sizzle with the rythyms, joy, and animated lives of the fiery and infectious Cuban people. At night tourists and Cubans frolic in the carnavalesque atmosphere of the night clubs.Mojitos, Cristal, Bucanero, Havana Club, puros, Cuba Libres, Pina Coladas,salsa, La Casa de Musica,dancing in the steets..........

For food you have amazing Paladares(privately owned restaurants in homes)serving up Lomo Ahumado with moros y cristianos and incredible homecooking if you are lucky enough to be invited to someone's house for arroz con pollo!State run restaurants are not always as exciting, but there is an excepion, El Aljibe. This restaurant serves up a special roast chicken marinated in seville oranges, garlic, and secret spices cooked to fall off the bone perfection. I have dreams about this restaurant and this dish.

Last Tuesday, 25 members of my Passport class, including current and former students and their friends, met at La Bodeguita de Pico, a little bit of Havana in Los Angeles. I arranged this dinner due to the presence of the El Aljibe chicken, which is the name of the recipe as well as the restaurant in Havana. We ordered the Gran Plato del Chef appetizer plate which included the delicious pappa rellena(my favorite),platanos fritos,chicharrones, y platanos fritos rellenos de camaron y carne molida.A few mojitos later were served the El Aljibe chicken with frijoles negros and arroz blanco, cuban style.The chicken was delicious and quite a genenrous portion.It was not as great as the chicken at El Aljibe in Havana, but was also different.The manager said that the recipe comes from La Bodeguita del Medio, the restaurant/bar in Cuba made famous by Hemingway and the hordes of tourists that now frequent the place. These two restaurants have a relationship in recipes and things including the La Bodeguita de Pico mojitos which are assembled with ritualistic authenticity down to the way they are muddled. La Bodeguita has a fabulous menu including many classic Cban dishes not found at other Cuban restaurants in LA. The outstanding EL Aljibe feast was well received by all.I hope to return to this restaurant to sample their other offerings, but I may not make it past the El Aljibe chicken, whose flavor and aroma are what sultry Havana nights are made of, without the humidity, of course.

La Bodegita de Pico
5047 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 937-2822
Open Wednesday through Sunday
Cigar club 1st and 3rd Tuesday each month

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