5859 SW 73rd Street
South Miami, Fl 33143
Ropa Vieja served with Black Beans and Rice
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Today was the big day—my wisdom teeth have been removed and I have embarked on my depressing all-liquid diet, which equates to a permanent state of “fee-fi-fo-fum.” But even doped up on Percocet, with swollen cheeks that resemble a chipmunk going into hibernation, I still managed to get my butt to the grocery store today. I’m a hardcore foodie. My dinner, consisting of plain vanilla yogurt (no granola, no fresh fruit, no nothing), has left me shockingly unsatisfied and so I’m hoping that blogging about delicious foods might help satiate my hunger!
So let’s talk Cuban food! One of my favorite Cuban restaurants in Miami is called Casa Larios, which is located near Sunset Plaza. I’m usually the only English-speaking Gringa in the place, so its definitely authentic (and slightly intimidating, for me!). Look around the large indoor/outdoor restaurant and you will find tables of both older men and businessmen sitting around and smoking cigars over Corditos. As well as impeccably dressed women (most in pearls and sky high heels) sipping on white wine and gossiping with friends (it seems that no one in Miami works). You will also always undoubtedly find a group of Cuban policemen congregating around the door, drinking coffee and eatingcroquettas. It’s a fun scene for people watching, but the food is also outrageous…in a good way!
I love to start my meal with a basket of Mariquitas and Mojo dipping sauce. For those of you who don’t know, Mariquitas are fried plantain chips and mojo is a delicious blend of garlic, lemon, and vinegar (warning: be careful when consuming on date!). The combination of the sweet plantains with the contrasting acidic garlic sauce is perfection. And although it is not a low-cal appetizer, it’s a totally pleasurable way to consume your calories. Ohhh, and I almost for about the bread that is brought to the table, which is absolutely A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It is warm, and light, and fluffy on the inside, yet flakey and golden on the outside. Put it this way, there are only two restaurants in Miami where I have been wowed by the bread, and those restaurants are: (1) Le Bouchon in the Grove, and (2) Casa Larios. The bread is really the highlight of the meal for me, and it is brought out in abundance with room-temperature butter packets that practically spread themselves on the heavenly dough. As author Elizabeth Gilbert might say, you need to go to Casa Larios with a “no carb left behind” kind of mentality–this is not the place to be tallying your Weight Watcher’s points!
For my entree, I usually order either the Pechuga La Plancha (simple chicken breast) or theRopa Vieja(shredded beef in a light tomato sauce), which is a special on Mondays. The Ropa Vieja is so incredible in my opinion, because I had never tried anything like it before coming to Miami. The meat is stewed with onions and other herbs in a flavorful tomato-based wine sauce, and then it is shredded to serve. The result is a very tender meat and pleasing rich dish. I put the meat over a mound of white rice and mix in some velvety black beans with a dash of Tabasco….Ooooo, it is so good! And Cubans make the best white rice…the grain is larger than Jasmine rice, which makes it pillowy and then they add butter (which makes everything better) and salt so that the rice has flavor when tasted on its own. It is something that I cannot replicate on my own at home, so I look forward to it every time that I go. The Pechuga La Plancha is a very simple pan seared chicken breast, but they cook it with butter (like everything else at this place) so it tastes like delicious comfort food. I always wondered why my chicken never tasted as good at home, but then I realized that butter was the secret ingredient and I’m too health conscious to prepare mine that way on my own. I always order my chicken with a side of black beans and rice, and usually Maduros too (fried plantains). It is a simple but classic Cuban meal that I have come to love and crave on a weekly basis.
The only thing that I did not like at Casa Larios were the Papas Rellenas , which are stuffed and then fried potatoes. When I ordered them they were brought out below room temperature, which reminded me of like the frozen Costco party appetizers…ewe. I’m pretty sure that they aren’t made to order and it was a bad experience that put me off to them completely. Everything else that I have tried has been great though. Go to Casa Larios…just don’t try to order a Cuabn coffee to blend in if you’re not used to drinking them! Benn there, done that, and I’m pretty sure that it was unleaded. I can actually compare my first Cuban coffee to my first shot of Limoncello…both made hair grow on my chest.