La Habanera: A place transporting Tabarnacos to Cuba

Photo by Shakti Langlois Ortega

Trendy Cuban restaurant is serving mucho mojitos and impressive dishes

Quebecers love Cuba. It is a known fact. According to the Toronto Star, 1.2 million Canadians travel to Cuba, annually.  The link between our province and the beloved communist state is so prominent that Cubans affectionately call us “Tabarnacos” and “Jean Coutus.”

That connection is what the staff at La Habanera restaurant wanted to bring to Montreal. “We wanted to create a nice vibe from Cuba,” manager Louis-Philippe Rouleau told The Concordian.  Rouleau said the idea was to create “something that you couldn’t get in Montreal.”

Photo by Shakti Langlois Ortega
Photo by Shakti Langlois Ortega

La Habanera is unique. Inspired by the vibrant colours of Cuban culture, the restaurant’s DIY-style décor is probably the most charming aspect of the downtown restaurant. Its vintage look recreates the antique charm of Old Havana. About 30 tables occupy the small space, and along the back wall sits a  turquoise banquette. Dozens of strategically scattered picture frames filled with vintage Cuban portraits, maps and photos cover the walls, giving the space a relaxed feel. Some may even consider it the perfect Instagram-worthy backdrop to any photo.

Walking into La Habanera feels like stepping into a closet-sized version of Cuba. If you are up to it, you can even test your Spanish skills with the staff, since most of them speak it fluently.

No Cuban-inspired restaurant would be complete without a salsa playlist and this place offers one that will have you dancing in your seat. If you dare, get up between bites and show off your dance moves.

Although delicious and beautifully prepared, the food served at La Habanera is nothing like the typical food found in traditional Cuban households. On the menu, you will find a variety of creative and tasteful small, tapas-style plates inspired by authentic Cuban ingredients, such as plantain and seafood. The restaurant basically takes traditional ingredients to make non-traditional or gourmet dishes.

Plantain cups filled with rum, coconut, and garlic dulce de leche shrimps. Photo by Shakti Langlois Ortega
Plantain cups filled with rum, coconut, and garlic dulce de leche shrimps. Photo by Shakti Langlois Ortega

One of the restaurant’s signature dishes, rum, coconut and garlic dulce de leche shrimps served in plantain cups, is a perfect example of that.

To recreate the open and heart-warming Cuban atmosphere and experience, La Habanera encourages clients to order several plates to share. The spot also offers a special tasting menu for groups, which is a surprise menu picked and designed by the chefs.

You can seat yourself either at the beautiful turquoise banquette, in one of the cozy diner-style booths or at the bar, while a bartender concocts one of the spot’s exotic house cocktails, like the Bloody Maria Con Lychee. The drink translates to a cherry tomato and lychee Bloody Mary.

With more than 20 different types of rum, the Cuban liquor of choice, La Habanera offers an exclusive selection of mouth-watering mojitos made with fresh fruits and herbs.

Designed for millennials, with its trendy yet unpretentious vibe, La Habanera can be your go-to spot for anything from a promising Tinder date to an unforgettable birthday dinner.

La Habanera is the latest restaurant from a team of people who are also behind Montreal’s Mexican restaurants La Cerveceria and Escondite, and the Japanese fusion spot, Biiru. The team will also opening a Hawaiian poke takeout restaurant soon.

La Habanera is located at 1216 Avenue Union, Montréal, QC H3B 3C4.

The spot is open Tuesday to Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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