I love NYC, but sometimes, you just need to escape for a weekend. Without a car, our choices are a bit limited (and renting usually comes to nearly $300 for a weekend, and wasting $300 makes me feel like we should be flying someone cool). So when I had the urge to leave a few weeks ago, we did some digging and found out that the train to Philly was easy and cheap, and hotels were SERIOUSLY cheap (we stayed at a Le Meridien for $125! Thank you priceline.com.) Neither of had ever been, which is odd since I grew up about an hour away. We decided to take a weekend in the city to explore the history, museums, and, of course, the Noms.
Mike did some great research and booked a few recommended places. Our first stop on the night we got in was Alma de Cuba. I’m always a little wary about Cuban food due to the peppers allergy, but Mike assured me the menu would be safe. (Alma de Cuba is a Starr restaurant, which seemed to be a very popular thing to be in Philadelphia. Note to self: Further research this Starr guy)
The interior was modern and beautifully done. They did a great job with the space.
And they left in some old touches, including the staircase.
The bread came out and I knew already that Mike had made a great choice. It was sweet and warm and doughy and everything RIGHT about bread. I could have eaten this for dinner and been happy. But I was good and saved room.
Mike began with the chorizo sliders. He was totally in love with these things. I wish I could have tried them. He talked about them the rest of the weekend.
I went with the Royal Palm Dates, which were almond stuffed and wrapped in bacon with blue cheese. Holy cow! These were amazing. And such a portion. At this point in the meal, we started singing Philly’s praises.
We moved into the mains and Mike chose the Sugarcane Tuna which had a Costa Rican coffee-rum glaze, malanga fondue with shrimp and roasted tomato escabeche. This was very good, but I think it was a bit of a let down after the apps.
Mike and I split the yuca with creamy mojo. It was DELICIOUS. Just the right crispness with a very slightly sour sauce that was perrrrrrrrrrrrrfect.
My main was mind blowing. It was the Lechon Asado which was crispy roasted pork, congri rice and sour orange mojo. I had to switch out the congri rice for white rice due to peppers, but it wasn’t lacking in flavor ONE BIT. It was so perfectly crisped on the outside and so perfectly slow cooked and tender on the inside. It had so much flavor. My only regret was that I was way too full to finish it and was trying really hard to save room for dessert. (I wound up doing something I never do in NYC and gave my leftovers to a homeless man because I seriously could not stand the thought that a bite of this would go to waste)
Every review and comment we read about Alma de Cuba mentioned the chocolate cigar for dessert. How could we not?
It was described as award winning almond cake wrapped in chocolate mousse, dusted with chocolate and served with dulce de leche ice cream. What we were not expecting was the cute little matchbook that came out on fire. Flames and all. Quite cool.
But the taste?
This was hands down one of the best desserts I have ever had. And you know I am a harsh dessert critic! This was just a perfect blend of flavors. I want to go back to Philly just for this.
Overall, our meal here was sensational. On par with some of the best meals we have had in NYC and I am confident it will make the top 10 list of 2011. I would probably skip the tuna next time, however, everything else I would go back for in a heartbeat. This meal alone was worth the train ride.
Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10