Havana’s small Chinatown district near the historic center of Old Havana has always been an active area of the city, known mainly for its many Chinese restaurants, popular among Cubans for the intense flavors and large portions.
But this is not authentic “Chinese food”. The recipes are Cubanized, and have been increasingly moving away from their Eastern roots. Indeed, it has been getting harder and harder to find authentic Chinese food in Havana. But with the newly opened restaurant Beijing arriving, this gap has been filled with an irresistible and ambitious concept.
This project has been cooking for a while, as part of a cooperation initiative between the governments of China and Cuba. The result is a truly Chinese restaurant, with flavors and ingredients totally unknown to most of its customers. It is located just meters from the iron bridge that crosses the Almendares River, on the Miramar side, in a remodeled house that used to be a Chinese restaurant called “El Pavo Real”, but was dismantled years ago.
The restaurant has two floors, several lounges and an impressive terrace in the background overlooking the river. The house is spectacular, with lots of wood, impressive mosaic floors and paper lamps hanging from its high ceilings. The decoration combines elements of the two cultures elegantly. Its walls are filled with Chinese artefacts, as well as original paintings by Cuban artist Portocarrero and impressive photographs and sculptures. Everything seems to be in place in Beijing.
The menu, presented via a tablet computer, is extensive, with more than 50 recipes and their respective photos to help inexperienced diners. We ordered several of their typical dishes, which arrived at our Chinese rotating table with incredible speed.
The vegetable and egg soup had a faint fresh and healthy flavor. Served in a huge bowl, there was enough for six people. The green beans sauteed with pork and soy sauce is one of its stellar dishes, simple and focused, while the tofu with sweet and sour sauce and pickled pork slices are also interesting.
Other standouts include the whole fried fish in sweet and sour sauce, the pork slices sauteed with peppers, and the chicken with vegetables. The dishes are intense and delicious, with top quality ingredients. Most products can be obtained in Cuba, but Beijing’s chefs use them masterfully, giving their dishes incredible fresh flavors.
The team is mostly Chinese, though the waitresses are Cuban, and this was the one weakness in the experience. Several times they could not answer our questions about the dishes. But in general the service is friendly and efficient. There are no desserts or coffee, which for Cubans is almost sinful. Luckily just steps away is El Cocinero restaurant, where you can have a quick espresso and portion of chocolate cake (one of the best desserts in Havana).
But all considered we highly recommend Beijing, definitely the best Chinese restaurant in Havana.
Schedule: Every Day 12:00 – 3:00 p.m., 6:00 – 10:
Cost: 15 – 20 cuc
Address: 7ma e/ 2 y 4, Miramar, Playa.
Contact: +53 72046418