I was in Havana last week and went to dinner with some friends at the restaurant Cocina de Lilliam. This small family-owned restaurant in the neighborhood of Playa is a relaxed place with outdoor seating in the garden, which has lots of green plants and fountains. These private restaurants are called "paladars." Havana now has far fewer of these restaurants than it did years ago, and of the few that still exist, even fewer are very good quality.
I like the food at Lilliam because it’s like being in a time machine. It’s very 1950s sort of Cuban home cooking—dishes such as sautéed garbanzo beans with pieces of bacon and ham, sautéed octopus and ropas viejas, a shredded beef dish cooked in a tangy tomato sauce. Lilliam might have the best food in Havana now since my favorite paladar, La Guarida, closed.
Anyway, the restaurant only had two red wines on the list, and the "tinto" I ordered was from the Spanish producer Torres, its 2004 Catalunya Gran Sangre de Toro Reserva. This is a blend of Grenache, Carignane and Syrah. I thought the Grenache came out beautifully, with a lovely raspberry and strawberry character, while the Carignane and Syrah gave the red a light spiciness. It was not a serious wine, but it was fresh, fruity and delicate. It went well with our grilled red snapper and salad—and wasn't bad with the grilled octopus salad we had before! I scored it 87 points, non-blind. The Gran Sangre de Toro Reserva typically retails for around $14 in the United States, so it’s a good value.
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Marc Robillard — Montreal,Canada — March 13, 2010 9:50am ET
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