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Neighborhood Food – El Oriental de Cuba

October 27, 2011

I have a semi-regular dinner thing going with three other AmeriCorps members who happen to live on the other side of the tracks leading to Stony Brook. They live on this lovely street with two community gardens and a restaurant called El Oriental de Cuba at the other end of it. In case you couldn’t tell from the name alone, El Oriental is a Cuban restaurant:

I’ve only been so lucky as to go to a Cuban restaurant one other time – the 90 Mile Cuban Cafe in Chicago’s Roscoe Village. I think I was quite famished then, having just finished my last college rugby game. At the time, I had a fantastic roast pork sandwich, a tropical fruit shake – I think it was soursop, a croquette, perhaps, and plantains, of course.

This time at a Cuban restaurant was no different – I led my ordering with another shake – mamey, another fruit of mysterious tropical origin. It tasted somewhat of watermelon crossed with banana and was quite delicious.

My roommate, who had been to El Oriental some weeks earlier, was enthusiastic about their tamales. I’m not sure when the last time I had a tamale was, but the idea of them had never appealed to me despite my love of Chinese zongzi. But I took a bite when one of my dining companions ordered one as an appetizer and was pleasantly surprised by the toothsome quality of the masa mixed with the salty morsels of meat (ham?).

And then there was steak caballo – Cuban steak and eggs with wonderfully savory rice and sweet plantains.

A homey and satisfying feel in a homey and satisfying restaurant.


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