CUBA LIBRE: Is Manila Ready for Cuban Cuisine? (First Look)

Cuba Libre-2.jpg CUBA LIBRE is a Cuban restaurant where customers feel as though they are eating home-cooked meals that you can find in Grandma’s kitchen. Bringing in food that is celebratory, homecooked and accessible to the Philippines in a cantina style setting. Both Cuba and the Philippines were colonies of Spain at the same time, so it’s not hard for Pinoys to enjoy the meals, with dishes that share similar flavor profiles. It features striking décor, festive lights, art-covered walls, and affordable prices at a prime location in Serendra BGC. It’s not hard to be curious and try what Cuba Libre has to bring… A pineapple mojito costs Php99 and full meal start at Php 250 complete with a main dish, side dishes, and seasoned rice. CUBA LIBRE Ground Floor, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City Instagram: @cubalibreph Cuba libre means Free Cuba; it also means a drink with rum, coke, and lemon. Located in Serendra BGC (former Sentro Location). You can’t miss the striking, colorful restaurant just as you cross over from Highstreet to Serendra. Cube Libre Menu: Mains | Sides | Drinks Customers start waiting in line for someone to take their order. After, they head down to choose their mains, sides and seasoned rice before paying at the counter. I love how the flow is patterned after the Cuban Cantina which reminds us of the self-service Pinoy cafeteria style. The crazy interiors are my favorite. It’s about life, music sharing, and togetherness. I also love the little details on the chairs and tables on their outside sitting. Expect Cuban cuisine never to be high-end cuisine; it’s food meant to be enjoyed in numbers and in big families at home. The flavor profile consists mostly of two ingredients oregano and cumin. You’ll also find the dishes are more on the sour side because they use a lot of vinegar. The Philippines and Cuba were both colonized by Spain at the same time, so the influence we had in flavors have a few similarities.   MAINS Albóndigas Criollas (P220) House blend of beef, pork, and bell pepper meatballs simmered in Cuban creole tomato sauce My favorite mains are the Albóndiga (meatballs). The meatballs are bursting with flavor from the spices. It contains pepper, cumin, oregano which is probably my favorite spices found in Cuban cuisine. It’s also drenched in a thick tomato-based sauce, a perfect pair with the tumeric rice. Picadillo Cubano (P220) Classic ‘a la cubana’ pork mince cooked with peppers, olives and raisins in a light tomato sauce The dish reminded me a lot of mechado. Masitas de Puerco en Adobo (P245) Cuban-style pork belly & potato adobo, sour orange and oregano The masitas are pork belly with potatoes. Similar to our adobo, but with a very thick and rich the sauce that I personally like. Chuletas de Cerdo con Guayaba (P300) Grilled bone-in pork chops in Cuba Libre’s guava-ginger barbecue sauce Chef’s recommended we try the pork chops smothered with their bbq guava sauce the next time. Ropa Vieja (P275) Shredded beef brisket slow-stewed with peppers, tomatoes and white wine Anton & Rache liked the Ropa Vieja because it was tender shreds of beef and very comforting to eat. Pollo con Cacahuates y habichuelas (P250) Creamy peanut chicken and cilantro casserole with green beans The nutty taste reminded me of kare-kare. The dish was just ok.   SIDES Tostones (P50) Double-fried crispy plantain patties Try the tostones. It’s a little on the side because it’s made from green bananas. Tostones are unique because they are fried twice. This double frying technique is very popular in Cuba! Croquetas de Malanga (P50) Purple taro and pumpkin fritters These are my favorite the savory, crunchy taro & pumpkin fritters flavored with spices make a good snack. Boniato Frito (P80) Smoky sweet potato fries These are also good, I like the different texture of crunchy and chewy.   STAPLES Arroz Blanco (P40). White oregano rice Very fragrant rice. Arroz Amarillo (P40) Yellow rice The used saffron and turmeric to make a tasty yellow rice. For the rice, I personally like the Arroz Amarillo and the Moros Y Cristianos. Moros y Cristianos (P40) Rice and Beans The black beans add to the color while the garlic, onions, bay leaves, cumin, and pepper make up this flavorful dish. Order this if you want to feel fuller. The dish is pretty healthy, complete with proteins, carbs, and anti-oxidants!   DRINKS Expect affordable alcohol and mojitos. Though I was bummed, we didn’t get to try the Php 99 pina mojitos. I did love their take on the lemonade and ice tea concoctions. Limonada con Yerbabuena (P60) Minted Lemonade You can find elements of Cuban ingredients which is lemon and mint into a lemonade. Te Helado de Guayaba (P60) Guava Iced Tea Since guava is a fruit widely used in Cuba, they incorporated it in the ice tea.   Final Thoughts I found Cuba Libre’s dishes similar to what you’d get in Miami. They don’t skimp on ingredients, and the servings are big. While I was expecting to be served with Cuban sandwiches, Cuba Libre was more than just ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and Cuban bread. It was about affordable (BGC rate) meals that reminded you of home. What do you think, Manila?   CUBA LIBRE Ground Floor, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City Instagram: @cubalibreph Live an Awesome Life, ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet Disclosure:  We were media guest of Cuba Libre. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. Congratulations Luis de Terry! Luis de Terry is of Filipino and Spanish descent, his flavors and passion for bringing Cuban cuisine to the Philippines were influenced by his side of the family members who migrated to Cuba.

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