Food bloggers have an enviable job. We check out new restaurants, taste the most unusual and innovative dishes and then get to give our opinion on them. But the whole food tasting process can get monotonous pretty soon. I find any activity or task, however treasured, loses some luster when it becomes a ‘job’, right? So when something different from the run of the mill comes up in the food tasting world, I’m all for it.
Phoenix Market City Pune organized Food Trails 1.0, a one of its kind food tasting activity for bloggers and influencers from the city. Saturday morning saw a motley crew of food bloggers assembled at Liberty Square at the Phoenix mall, all eager to find out what the day had in store for them.
Food Trails 1.0 promised to set us on a path of discovery with cake or pie at the end. Bloggers were asked to select two options. The first one told us which restaurant we had to visit. The second one told us which ingredient we had to focus on. We had to order dishes around the given ingredient. There are prizes in the offing for the best blog post, best photo etc. Great incentive to get the creative juices flowing :).
I think I definitely drew the short straw when I got Cuba Libre instead of places like Copper Chimney, Indigo Deli, Cafe 212 etc. But it’s been a while since I ate Cuban food, definitely a while since I’ve been to Miami. So I was all for checking out this place.
Cuba Libre is located on the swanky third floor of the mall, the one that is the ultimate foodie destination. The interior was dark and plush and you could be forgiven for thinking you just entered Lucifer Morningstar’s Lux. A long sweeping bar curves around the space at one end, with ample seating right at the bar. Black couches and furniture maintain the dark ambience. Photos and murals depicting Cuban history and culture are spread around the place, like the statue of the man playing the sax that greets you at the entrance. After requesting some brighter lights at our table, I was all set to sample the excellent Cuban food in this Cuban paradise.
The menu at Cuba Libre was a surprise. Apart from a few dishes that are called ‘Cuban’, there is hardly any glimpse of the cuisine of Cuba. Even the simple Cuban Sandwich or Cubano is not on the menu. Vegetarian options provide some appetizers, a vegetable burger, pizzas, pasta dishes and a random assortment like paneer tikka or aloo tikki. That’s about it.
If you recall, though, my assignment was to hero the potato. I chose Chili Potato and Poutine with Cuban Salsa. I was a bit surprised to see the poutine on the menu which kind of comes from Canada. The restaurant has their own spin on this Canadian dish.
The poutine contained a bed of French Fries as expected, not really steak cut. A yellow sauce was drizzled on top. I guess this was supposed to be a cheese or mustard sauce but it tasted of neither so I couldn’t really figure out what it was. There was some nominal shredded cheese on top, salsa and a big dollop of sour cream (or cream). This would make a great hangover dish. It’s pub food that’s going to fill you up but there was nothing remarkable about it.
The Chili Potato was like an Indo-Chinese ‘chili’ dish and was quite hot and loaded with chili. This would be a great choice for chili lovers.
The other dish I ordered was Vegetable Lasagna. The lasagna had a good portion size and was served on a bed of sauce. It was loaded with veggies which took over the pasta and the smattering of cheese. In my opinion, the lasagna lacked cheese. Apart from some cheese used on the top, I couldn’t make out any ricotta, mozzarella (or any other) cheese between the layers. The kind of lasagna I like is the one where the melted cheese glues the layers together and where the pasta has a bite to it.
I tasted a mocktail thanks to the courteous staff. The Mexican Sangria is a drink I can definitely recommend. With a citrus Curacao base, it was loaded with fruit like watermelon, pineapple and orange. It could have been more limey though for a Mexican touch.
Cuba Libre has good ambience and plenty of potential to be a great hangout spot. As someone who has visited many of the other eating joints in Phoenix Market City, I think they have high standards to live up to. Check it out the next time you’re in the area and looking for a place to relax with a drink.
Thanks to Phoenix Market City for arranging this fun blogger activity.