Monday, January 31, 2005

FOOD: Cafe Atlantic

After a day of shopping and the spa in Old Pasadena, George and I stumbled onto the Cafe Atlantic on Union St. What a great find! It's run by the same people as Xiomara around the corner, but this is more traditional authentic Cuban food with strong Spanish influences. While it has the usual Cuban standards (George had his favorite ropa vieja), it also features some unusual delicacies. I had a potage de garbanzos, a hearty chick pea stew with pigs feet and chorizo. It was marvelously seasoned, and robustly meaty from slow-cooked bones, reminiscent of a great French cassoulet, but with pimentos and a touch of cilantro (more fragrance than flavor) creating a distinctive complex flavor. George started with a simple avocado salad, drizzled in lime juice and with a dash of seasonings, making a nice first impression. My entree was an arroz frito, a delicious bowl of rice fried with bits of shrimp, chorizo and ham, with a generous helping of maduros (fried ripe plaintains) and fresh avocado artfully arranged on top. George's ropa vieja was in a thicker tomato sauce than the usual (this old dress was red), nicely seasoned and tasty. We shared a flan for dessert, not the lighter Mexican flan but the thicker firmer Spanish-style custard, in a delicate carmel (and vanilla?) coulis, garnished with fresh berries. Dinner was accompanied with hot fresh Cuban-style garlic bread (very white bread, garlic-buttered and smashed together), and the cortadito (espresso) with dessert was muy robusto. The dining room was simple (that arty industrial space conversion look) but elegant (white table cloth). They had some interesting wines by the glass, including several Spanish (tempranillo, anyone?), but we just wanted water after the spa. Our server was very friendly and attentive. We'll definitely have to come here again!
Cafe Atlantic, 53 E. Union St., Pasadena, (626) 796-7350

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