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Havana Central Executive Chef Stanley’s Picks

These are the four dishes handpicked by Executive Chef Stanley Licairac as being the best on the Havana Central menu:

Pernil Asado - Due to the volume, if we were to make it the traditional way that you would with a pork shoulder, we wouldn’t get the amount of meat out of it to feed the masses. It would [contain] a lot more fat. So we use a pork butt and even with that, we don’t get that much yield out of it. But it comes out to be a much better dish to be able to feed the masses and gives them an introduction to Latin cuisine.

Ropa Vieja - It’s an automatic Cuban dish. If you go to any Cuban restaurant, they have ropa vieja. That helps us, because it’s a staple dish. You go online or you go anywhere, and you’ll see that the recipe really doesn’t change. And we have not changed our recipe since we started. It’s just such a hearty meal. Everything we do is comfort food. You’re not coming to Havana Central looking for something light on the oil or fat. So it’s probably one of the most robust flavors on our menu.

Vaca Frita - Again, a Cuban staple dish. If you know Cuban [cuisine], vaca frita is a must-have. And just the fact that it’s kind of double-cooked. And for those people that know and order it, they know it’s double-cooked beef, so here you are stewing this beef in its own fat, water, bay leaf and all that, and then you take it, marinate it in fresh lime, Acetito peppers and onions. Then you refry it in olive oil. So there are a lot of flavors going on there.

Lancon - Lancon is the pork shank. Right now we brought it back on our menu and we’re probably selling 200 orders a week out of each location. And we just put it on our menu a couple of weeks back. It’s a pork shank but the kicker is that it’s marinated like roast pork and we cook it like our oxtail. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s topped with mashed yucca and then it has arroz moro, a black beans and white rice mixture.

Sugarcane Lime Chicken Salad - Now I don’t know where in Cuba they serve this, but I can tell you that here we kind of concocted it. We took a chicken breast with the skin on it to give it flavor. What we did was marinate it in citrus juices, fresh ginger and cilantro. Then we bake it with brown sugar and fresh sugarcane shavings. So again, all the fat comes off the chicken, it sits in this marinade, you bake it so then what we do is put in a salad with mixed greens, ensalada de frijoles negros, which is black bean corn salad. Then we put on a coconut citrus vinaigrette. So it’s a little bit of Coco Lopez, a little bit of passion fruit, red wine, salt, pepper, a little bit of vinegar and oregano.