Little is done in half measures at Coco Cubano. The Cuban restaurant with locations across Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle sprang from the Surry Hills institution which has sat on Taylor Square for decades. Perhaps reflecting the country’s love of a good time excess is the order of the day with this satisfying Cuban fare.
The new menu alone is split into three binders, orange for food, blue for alcoholic drinks and yellow for dessert. If you’re new to Cuban eating your best option is to do as the girl on the blue cover: just dive right into that coconut pool and get a feel for the different flavours.
The cocktail list is classic Caribbean centred on rum, fruit and refreshment. The lychee and passionfruit mojito ($18) with Havana Club Especial, pressed lychee & passionfruit muddled with mint & fresh lime, served long over crushed ice is excellent as is the coco colada ($18) (Havana Club Especial, fresh coconut & lime, served long over ice with a coconut foam & roasted coconut). Perfect for the open air courtyard on a balmy Sydney evening.
Offering seafood and meats, burgers and burritos and their signature Cuban sandwiches you’re again spoiled for choice in the food department and you really can’t go wrong.
The “sal y pimiento” fried baby calamari ($14.9) is a sure highlight, the fresh calamari and light batter brilliant with the bite of the lime-pepper salt, green mojo dressing, fresh chilli and aioli. The plantain tostones ($9.9), a very traditional Cuban starter we’re told, are a nice, slightly thicker take on potato crisps with fresh guacamole and chunky mango although they could do with a little more of both dips which run out quickly.
For mains the criollo prawns ($18.9), a grilled prawn & chorizo skewer with tomato salsa and lime seems like the bangers and mash or bibimbap of Cuban food – simple, tasty and filling. The beans and rice mix and crusty toasted and buttered bread it’s served with though makes this a lot tastier than workmanlike.
In a similar vein, the bistec de Palomilla ($27.9), 200g of hand-tenderised rump steak with crispy fritas (French fries), is a safe choice but the tangy green mojo butter sauce gives it the kick it needs.
Indeed, the sauces, salsas and seasoning – combining chilli, pepper and lime – really make a lot of the dishes here and lend a very distinct flavour to the menu. The grilled chicken salad ($17.9) with deliciously tangy marinated chicken, crunchy plantains, mixed lettuce, charred corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes and a lime-pepper dressing make it a great standalone or side dish.
And proving that the celebrations must remain in full swing right to the end the dessert menu is replete with offerings. Smoothies and granitas, batidos locos (crazy shakes), dessert cocktails and Cuban sweets, take your pick. El Domingo ($14.9) is a vanilla ice cream sundae not for the faint hearted with delightfully light and crisp churro, couverture chocolate, whipped cream, strawberries, glacé cherries and some intriguing cinnamon sugar tossed plantains.
The citrus cheesecake ($12.9) on a good day would be an equally delicious dish, topped with passionfruit, fresh pineapple, whipped cream and caramel sauce but tonight unfortunately the cheesecake is a little tough as though it’s spent a bit too much time stored in the fridge.
There’s lots to enjoy at Coco Cubano (and I mean lots) and choosing a variety of dishes leaves you feeling like you’ve got a good taste of Cuban cuisine. Combined with the eclectically furnished interior and leafy Central Park courtyard that’s a surprisingly relaxed and buzzing location Cubano brings some of the welcome colour and indulgence of Havana to inner-city Chippendale.
Coco Cubano has many locations, the writer visited the one in Central Park, Chippendale. For a full list of locations visit http://www.cococubano.com/.