Havana

  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
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Photograph: Martha Williams
Havana
River North
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The torta cubano at Havana is not a torta cubano: It’s on a brioche bun, and among its nontraditional components you’ll find shredded lettuce and mayonnaise. If this sandwich isn’t enough explanation, the writing is on the wall, literally: The north side of the entryway is emblazoned with the word fusion, followed by a lengthy definition.

Fusion gets a bad rap, and Havana, which has carried over the happening bar scene from its former tenant, Mambo Grill, isn’t doing much for the cause. The problem isn’t so much the fusion of ingredients as the ingredients themselves: the dry brioche, the tough block of lechon, the potpourri of from-the-bag french fries. The issues continue with the jalea de mariscos, a bowl of seafood (including funky-tasting shrimp and mussels) swimming in a coconut-cream sauce that recalls an overly sweet Thai curry.

When the kitchen sticks with tradition, the results tend to be more successful. Among the better dishes I tried were the lomo salteado, a simple Peruvian dish of tender, medium-rare sirloin steak topped with sautéed peppers (pictured). The caserola de hongo relleno, a stuffed portabello mushroom, though nothing unusual, rested in a satisfyingly spicy tomato sauce. The icy, chunky tequila sorbet didn’t pick up any of the meal’s shortcomings, so end with another mojito or strong caipirinha instead. The cocktails are the only things in the place that are muddled in a good way.

Venue name: Havana
Contact:
Address: 412 N Clark St
Chicago

Cross street: between Kinzie and Hubbard Sts
Opening hours: Lunch, dinner (Mon-Sat)
Transport: El stop: Red to Grand; Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Merchandise Mart. Bus: 22, 65, 156.
Price: Average main course: $15