Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘cuban’ Category

Banana Café & Piano Bar, Take 2

In cuban, dc, restaurant on June 4, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Returned to Banana Café last night with Pratik, my oh-so-fashionable yet gastronomically underexposed co-intern. The skies had cooperated all day, but by the time we got out of work at six, heavy clouds threatened rain. We made it to the restaurant just before it started pouring and (wisely) chose to sit inside. The décor is fun, with burnt orange and yellow walls. The numerous works of art on display are reminiscent of a very safe, commercialized Picasso.

I wanted to eat plantains again, but I could only find them on the menu in deep-fried form, which didn’t suit my mood. Instead, I chose camarones Andaluz: white rice molded into an upside-down bowl shape (as in Egypt); black beans on the side in their own little bowl; and shrimp, sautéed in a white wine sauce with scallions, peas, peppers & mushrooms. I licked the plate clean.

Pratik, vegetarian that he is, ordered spinach & mushroom chille relleno: a giant oblong plate of fried stuffed peppers, with cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, white rice, black beans, and ranchero sauce. I didn’t try any of his meal (very unlike me, I know.) Both dishes were nicely presented.

A note on appetizers at Banana Café: As in most Hispanic restaurants, complimentary tortilla chips and salsa flow freely throughout the meal. Banana Café’s tortilla chips are corn-based and basic, with little salt; the salsa is surprisingly sweet and tangy, with a zing in the aftertaste. On my initial visit, I topped my chips with vinegar and salt, which turned out to be a good combo.

Banana Café’s service redeemed itself this time around. Our server was attentive, polite and genteel; our food and check were brought promptly. I would have no qualms recommending this place.

Final thought: I will return at least once after my 21st birthday (June 20th!!!) to try the house’s mango margarita. The menu claims it’s the best in the city.


Banana Café & Piano Bar

In cuban, dc, restaurant on June 1, 2009 at 10:03 pm

DC is like NYC in that they both have a city feel, but NYC has shops on the street and a loud, vibrant culture, while DC is much more austere and full of suits. Still, a few DC neighborhoods retain their character. Dupont Circle, I’ve heard, is one. Chinatown is another. The neighborhood surrounding the Eastern Market metro stop is my latest find.

Courtney and I dined at Banana Café & Piano Bar, located at 500 8th Street, SE. The Café, with its brightly painted walls and buzzing atmosphere, is tough to miss. The menu is descriptive and extensive, featuring both Cuban standards and their Americanized variations. Courtney introduced me to plaintains in her plaintain soup- I swear I must have eaten them before, but I’d forgotten the experience. Reaction: must find more plantains immediately. 🙂

I stuck with the standards and ordered a tropical salad with shrimp, scallops and squid. The dish’s excessive lettuce was compensated for by tender and tasty seafood in a tangy sauce. (Oo, alliteration.) The palm hearts framing the plate were a standout, while the tomatoes doing the same thing could have been left out.

The service was disappointing, always either too attentive or too lax. (My salad originally arrived sans seafood and the check took ages, but our water glasses were kept full and our waiter practically pounced on us to ask how we liked the food.) Regardless, the atmosphere reminded me of my beloved New York, and the outdoor seating can’t be beat. I’ll definitely be back.