Monday, June 20, 2011

The Plantain Cafe - Review

I have been walking past the Plantain Cafe at least twice a week since moving to Columbus.  It is a cute, brightly colored cafe offering "authentic Cuban food", and it was voted one of Columbus Monthly's top restaurants for 2010.

In December, after living here for four months, I finally visited the cafe with my brother when he came to see the Penguins thrash the Blue Jackets.  Because I was elbow deep in final projects, and I had lost an evening of work by going to the aforementioned hockey game, we picked up the food to take back to my apartment.  We didn't get the full Plantain Cafe experience, nonetheless, the service was friendly, the food was ready when they said that it would be, and the food was delicious.

When my mom, dad, and brother came to visit this past weekend, my brother insisted that we go back for the full experience.  We were not disappointed.

My first meal from the Plantain Cafe was the vegetarian platter.  The platter consisted of three plantain sides - mariquitas (plantain chips), tostones (smashed and fried green plantains), and maduros (sweet plantains) - and a side of rice and beans.  The platter also came with a deliciously tart garlic and lime mojo.  Everything tasted great on its own, but a touch of the mojo made everything  better (except the maduros - they're perfect on their own).  The rice and beans were perfectly cooked and lightly seasoned.

The menu at the restaurant is limited.  They offer six sandwiches, six entrees, and six side dishes.  This means that everything has to be perfect in order for the restaurant to be successful.  It also means that there are very few vegetarian options.  For my second visit, I wanted to try something new, so I chose the Pan con Pescado (Fish Sandwich).  The sandwich was made with two lightly breaded and fried tilapia fillets which were topped with carmelized onions, tomatoes, and mustard.  The assembled sandwich was then toasted and pressed. 

I was a late comer to enjoying mustard.  I still hate French's mustard, and I only like Dijon or Coleman's mustard if it is thinly spread in a toasted sandwich.  Needless to say, I'm quite picky when it comes to mustard.  The mustard in the Pan con Pescado was tangy but did not overpower the sandwich.  It was served with mariquitas and their delicious mojo (seriously, I could bathe in that mojo).

The service was friendly and efficient.  The server joked with the customers and kept our beverage glasses full.  She even took it in stride when my brother ordered his Cubano sandwich without mustard and pickles and laughed when I joked that it was no longer a Cubano sandwich without those two ingredients.

They offer two soups: Sopa de Frijoles Negro (Black Bean Soup) and Sopa de Platano (Plantain Soup).  I hope that they are vegetarian.  They sound delicious and I would love to further broaden my Cuban food experience.

The meal for the four of us consisted of three sandwiches and two sides, and it came out to only $37.  

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