Cuban café brings Havana to Houston

Established in the early ’90s, Café Piquet has moved from a corner store front of a shopping strip to its own stand-alone building on Bissonnet, and is therefore the king of Cuban cuisine in Houston.

For some reason, in Houston, Mexican taquerias are a dime a dozen and yet Cuban restaurants are few and far between — it’s almost as if people are afraid to try a cuisine comprised of serious servings of slow roasted pork, sweet and savory fried plantains, spiced ground beef and braised shredded skirt steak.

For starters, my natural instinct is to go for the fried plantain chips, also known as mariquiatas.

They are thin strips of the green plantain that come out looking like flowing ribbons, and are topped with a mixture of garlic and olive oil known as mojo de ajo.

When ever I go to Piquet I need to go with my all-time favorite breaded steak. The breading actually adheres to the steak — holding in the moisture, but still managing to stay light and flaky.

The dish is served with a side of fried sweet plantains bursting with flavor and the consistency of a firm banana custard, accompanied by a Cuban rice dish called con grie rice, which is colored black from the soaking water of black beans.

For the serious pork lover, look no further than the masitas fritas, or fried pork chunks; not since the phrase bacon-wrapped (insert name of meat) has there been such a beautiful arrangement of words.

The masitas have a crispy exterior while the meat inside simply falls apart with flavor and juices. Normally I wouldn’t dare mess with perfection, but squeezing a wedge of lime over the top helps bring out that savory pork flavor.

Assuming that you haven’t gone into a food coma, and that there is enough room for a dessert and coffee, Piquet’s rice pudding will put most other challengers to shame; the pudding is served ice cold and instantly dominates the pallet with its rich creamy texture and cinnamon. The Cuban coffee is so strong they should carding diners — this is a perfect Cuban ending to a great Cuban meal.

A comment I must make concerns the prices that are set a little high, leading me to not choose this place on my everyday eating list. But it’s a great place for a first date.

That being said, the price issue is definitely compensated by the portions.

Seeing as Havana is more than 1,000 miles away, thankfully you don’t have to make the trip to get a taste of Cuban heritage; instead, you can just stop by Café Piquet.

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