Cuba Libre Restaurant - Pop-Up Paladar Dinner - Philadelphia, PA - January 11-13, 2012

L to R - Owner Larry Cohen, Chef Guillermo Pernot, Chef Luis Alberto Alfonso Perez aka Chef Lucio , Owner Barry Gutin

For the first time since the US embargo, a chef from Cuba is cooking in America. Chef Luis Alberto Alfonso Perez (aka Chef Lucio) of El Gijon├ęs in Havana, Cuba, traveled to the United States this week to collaborate with Chef Guillermo Pernot of Cuba Libre Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA for their new “Pop-up Paladar” events (paladar is the Cuban term for a small, family-run restaurant). My husband A.D. and I were among the lucky dinner guests on January 11, and we were astounded by the unique flavor combinations presented throughout the four course menu.


PRIMERO - Crudo de Langosta
Lobster salad
Pineapple sorbet
Truffle oil infused black sesame seeds

This opening dish was a savory-sweet-tart symphony of flavors. The lobster was tender and warm; the pineapple sorbet provided a cold counterpoint, the truffled sesame seeds were flavorful but not overpowering. It was outstanding!  I want to eat this every day. I want to eat it right now.


SEGUNDO – Ravioles
Eggplant wrapped ravioli
Lamb ropa vieja filling
Infusion de hierba Buena

As a person who loves and reviews tea, I was absolutely delighted when the eggplant-wrapped lamb ravioli was served in a bath of fresh mint tea. This is definitely an idea I’ll be incorporating in my home-cooked dishes, and I’ll be making Chef Pernot’s recipe for Ropa Vieja too - it's in the "About" section of the Cuba Libre website.


TERCERO – Jabali
Baby wild boar rib chop
Sour orange-canela compot
Yuca tamal

Many years ago I worked at a Nigerian restaurant that served Suya, a shish kebob (chicken or beef) with a secret combination of spices that I've never tasted anywhere else. I’ve been searching for that flavor all this time since then, and finally found it again in the seasoning of these delicious wild boar chops. The lean, fork tender boar was a crowd favorite; it may be added to Cuba Libre’s permanent menu.


QUARTO – Flan de Queso
Pategras cheese flan
Guayaba coulis
Ajo confitado

The meal ended as it began, with a savory-sweet-tart sensation. The cheese flan with guava coulis and sugared garlic confit (!) was as decadent as dessert gets. A.D. rarely eats sweets, but he ate every bite of his flan, and I am positive if I had turned my head he would have stolen mine.

When we go to Cuba Libre I always have their Mango Mojito – it’s my favorite cocktail in Philly. However, for this dinner they offered a red and white wine pairing: Indomita Cabernet from Chile, and Montes Sauvignon Blanc, Chile. I normally prefer red wine, but the peach and citrus notes of the Sauvignon Blanc won me over. I enjoyed the white with the salad and dessert courses and the red with the two meat dishes

In addition to bringing authentic Cuban flavors to diners in Philly, Chef Guillermo Pernot and his wife Lucia will be bringing travelers to Havana, Cuba for a culinary and cultural tour that will take place April 20-24, 2012. The itinerary includes dining at paladares hand selected by Chef Pernot, a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s home and boat, a tour of the markets and more. For more info contact

Cuba Libre Philadelphia
10 South 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215.627.0666

All photos by Glamorosi
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