Thursday, June 21, 2007

Eat It - Versailles - 3555 SW 8th St. (Calle Ocho), Miami, FL (305) 444-0240

Please, whatever you do, don't pronounce it the way they do in French. Miami's Versailles is pronounced "Vair-sah-yes". It's a Cuban restaurant, after all.

I went there recently with Mitzy and her dad, and we had a lovely meal. We had to brave a nice Miami summer torrential downpour, but we made it there and back without getting in an accident, flooding our car, or ruining our espadrilles.

As appetizers, we had a selection of croquetas and some tostones with mojo. The tostones were huge and crispy, but also quite greasy. The mojo sauce was delicious. However, I prefer the tostones at Las Vegas in North Beach (6970 Collins Ave.). Tostones, in case you don't know, are twice-fried plantains (smashed in between fryings).

For main courses, Mitzy's dad had lechon asado (roast pork), which he polished off quite handily. She had the boliche, for which I prepared her by saying that there would be a carrot jammed in the center of it. Boliche is pot roast, heavily marinated and stuffed with tons of garlic. It's delicious.

Well, she was a little surprised when, what appeared to be a carrot, just as I told her, turned out to be chorizo. I thought that was a little gross, actually. The reason for the confusion was that my Cuban grandmother used to make boliche with a carrot in the middle, and she has her own cookbook (A Taste of Old Cuba), so there.

I had the ropa vieja, which is a pretty safe choice at a Cuban restaurant. Even though the name of the dish translates to "old clothes", it is (they are?) actually quite delicious. The dish is stew-like, shredded beef.

Most main courses are served with white rice (short grain), beans, and maduros. Maduros are fried, ripened plantains. They are dark and soft, and fried only once. One caveat is that the rice and beans are often served as "moros", which are beans and rice mixed together. It's a pretty dry dish, and you are going to have a much better eating experience if you order the "arroz, frijoles negros, y maduros" instead of moros. They are really dry. Did I mention that? I cannot stress enough, dry, they're dry. Moros are dry. And I'm realizing as I write that word over and over, that it's probably a racist term, because "Moros" are the Moors, like, from Spain. Black Muslims basically. They don't taste very good, I'll tell you that. Maybe because they hung around Spain for 700 years. Blacks beans, when served separately from the rice are soupy and provide a nice sauce for the rest of the plate.

For dessert (postre), Marguerite and I shared cascitos de guayaba (canned guava slices, served with cream cheese), and her dad had flan con dulce de leche (creme caramel with, uh, caramel on it).

Versailles is such a landmark, located on Calle Ocho, and likely site of one of the biggest parties in town cuando caiga Fidel (when Castro dies), that you should visit it. But there are places on Miami Beach that serve as good, or better, Cuban fare. Those places are David's Cafe II on Lincoln Rd. and Meridian, and the aforementioned Las Vegas.

And moros are dry.

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