So, I have heard of this place, and Caninecologne suggested it as well, so we went to Andre's last week. It's on Morena Blvd, off of Sea World Drive. Maybe it's not a giant restaurant, but it seemed so big. There appeared to be 2 or 3 dining rooms.
We went right around noon. There was a big group of cuban men there, so it's got to be good, right?
So the menu was not too complicated, which is always good for me. I was torn though (yeah, I know, I'm very indecisive and I always say this when we go to a new place) between roast pork and a cuban sandwich. The FP was getting the Ropa Vieja, of course. So I think we had just had some pork the day before, so I opted for the cuban. Yeah, I know, the cuban is made with pork. But it's in sandwich form, which is very different than combo plate form. They're like two different types of meat.
Anyhoo, it started to get a little busy. It's weird going out to eat during "lunch time" when almost the rest of the good old US of A eats. I don't like it. I like to be an early bird. Next thing you know, we'll be eating heavy stews and stuff at 8am. Oh wait, we already do that.
So, I forgot to mention that we also got a meat empanada and an order of yucca frita. Those came out first. I love the way the empanada is totally homemade looking.
The empanada had a nice flaky pastry. And the picadillo was good. Pretty standard, but good. It's kinda like a good meatball. You know, it's ground beef with seasonings. As long as there's not too much or too little of something in it, it's delicious. I was also debating on getting the picadillo sandwich - the sloppy jose - I guess you would call it. I was glad I didn't get it. Because while it was some good picadillo, it wasn't spectacular.
The yucca was nice and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. The FP told me that these were frozen, like regular french fries. I have nothing against frozen fries. Sure, it's cool to do fresh handcut fries in certain situations, but there's nothing wrong with a frozen fry. So the yucca was okay, but it was plain. It was missing something. Then it dawned on me - mojo. So I asked for some mojo sauce. He brought it back fairly quickly, which was nice.
Whenever you ask for some kind of special side thing after you order, it's usually a pain in the ass. Let this be a suggestion to you fellow diners. If you know that you are going to need extra vinaigrette, mustard, hot sauce, tomato slices, mayo, a side of rice, a cup of fruit, extra gravy, a side of brie, avocado, toast, butter, whipped cream, chopped garlic, rouille, the little condiment carousel, or whatever, then order it when you order your meal. Of course, if you forget to order it, I guess that's excusable. Unless it's a habit. There are those diners, you know who you are, who routinely wait for their food to be dropped, and wait for the server to start walking away before they say, can I get some ketchup. Or my favorite are the ones who say, I asked for ketchup, when they did not. Or even better, the table that one by one asks for extras. Like the first person asks for ketchup. You come back to the table with ketchup, then someone else asks for mayo. You bring mayo, then they ask for hot sauce, you bring that, then someone says, I didn't want cheese on my sandwich. But they did not say that when they ordered.
Sorry. Didn't mean to get side tracked. Where was I? Oh, mojo sauce. garlic. And oil and salt and pepper. A little acid. Sounds simple. It is. But delicious. And quite tasty on yucca fries. It made them 90% better. Not that they were bad.
So as people's food kept coming out, it all looked really good. We were excited.
So then the main courses came.
The ropa vieja. This is like the spaghetti and meatballs of cuban cuisine. Or maybe the empanada is? For some reason I have this craving for spaghetti and meatballs. You know, I want to go to a cheesy old timey type italian restaurant and get the big serving bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.
Getting back to the meatballs, I mean the ropa. Beans and rice, ropa vieja. Standard plate setup. The ropa was not cooked to mush like at Tropical Star. But it was almost the opposite. It was as if it was cooked in a pressure cooker with water. Then at the traditional stage of doneness, it was pulled apart. Then to order, it was dunked in sauce and heated. It hadn't absorbed the flavors. Not bad, just not exciting the way cuban food is stereotyped to be. It wasn't like the ropa vieja was doing a cha cha cha in my mouth. Maybe a macarena.
So then there was my cuban sandwich.
You may be saying to yourself, she put the wrong picture up, I don't see a cuban sandwich there. Or you may be saying, did someone call that thing in the picture a cuban sandwich? Okay. I am definitely not an elitist or a purist or a traditionalist. (Although if you seem below me or like to fuse different components of different cultures or philosophies together, or you try to do things outside of what is considered the norm of societies standards and morals, you will most likely infuriate me and I will be certainly prejudiced against you.) But there are certain representations that need to be upheld or clarified. If I go to a cuban restaurant and order a cuban sandwich, I expect a fairly standard cuban sandwich, unless otherwise noted on the menu description.
So what is a fairly standard cuban sandwich? Well, it's on cuban bread, which is like french bread. I won't go into the minutia of why it's different than french bread. That's for a different blog. Anyhoo. Cuban bread. Roast pork. Ham. Swiss. Mustard. Pickle. Then press. Of course, there are variations depending on where you are, salami maybe. Lettuce, mayo and tomato (dressed as we say in nawlins). But anyhoo, that's the basics.
So what was conflicting with my "cuban"? Well, the most obvious element was the bread. It was some kind of smallish dense sesame seed laden dense baguette, not pressed. Just sitting there, like some kind of cold bastardized version of a croque monsieur. Why sesame seeds anyway? What the fuck were they doing there on my supposed cuban sandwich?
Okay, let's try to get through this. So some cold dense hardish baguette. It was very high too. As in, it was not pressed. One of the amazing things about the cuban is how you get all that flavor into a very flat amount of warm space. This is why they sometimes take a long time in the corner grocery store. That was a place in nawlins that had great sandwiches of all creeds and nationalities.
Getting back to Andre's cuban, not even an attempt at a press. Not even a half assed burn mark on the bread. Just cold and high.
So what else? Well, it had swiss, it had roast pork, it had ham. It had mustard. It had 2 thin bread and butter slices on pickle on it, spread about 2 inches apart. Which means that about 3/4 of the bites I took from the sandwich had no pickle, and the ones that did had a very slight taste of pickle because they were so so so thin. Pickle is one of the key elements that make it a beautiful national sandwich to behold. Pressed sandwich, good roast pork, a nice helping of mustard and lots of pickle. Pickle in every bite. It's just as important as the proteins in the list.
I can say that it was a big enough sandwich. With that dense bread it was very filling. And I had had a headache before we got to Andre's so I did scarf it down.
But what started out to be so promising turn out to be (not) flat and not a samba in my mouth.
So, unfortunately, I'm going to have to give Andre's a rating of \/\/ 4 chopsticks. It was pretty pricey, although they did have all kinds of different specials going on for lunch and every night for dinner. But I probably won't go back there for a while, being the po food ho that I am.
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