Mushrooming exotic food enriches culture and tells reform benefits of Cuba

Mushrooming exotic food enriches culture and tells reform benefits of Cuba

With a breathtaking view of Havana, it would be a nice time to enjoy some steak at Nazdorovie, the only restaurant themed on former Soviet Union in the island nation.

(Soundbite) Gregory Biniowsky, Founder of Nazdarovie
“It is great that in Havana right now a culinary culture of diversity is being created, not just of Cuban food but international cuisines that are a fusion of everything. We have Cuban food, very good, and international cuisines, tasty as well. Now hot on service is niche food, or food of a specific culture. I think this enriches our culture.”

From a starter of meat-filled Pielmeni Raviolis, to a creamy Stroganoff beef with fresh mushrooms, then with a strong shot of Vodka as well as some caviar to complement the meal, a die-hard gourmet has no choice but return to Nazdarovie, time and again.

(Soundbite) Li Chenglin, Chinese Student
“We have lived here for 7 years and have never tasted food from Russia. We wanted to come to try and see.”

Biniowsky opened this eatery after President Raul Castro launched the economic reform in 2010. He chose to cash in on the 30-year-strong alliance between his motherland and the former Soviet Union, now called Russia.

His Russian dishes now gather hundreds of locals, foreign residents and tourists each day into the nostalgic aura set up by outdated posters, dolls and memorabilia.

On the other side of town, Topoly has also managed to carve a niche in the gastronomic arena of Havana with Iranian cuisine since its establishment two years ago.

(Soundbite) Farrokh Nourbakht, Founder of Topoly
“Cubans believe this is a different type of restaurant. I do not talk about quality, because I should not talk about it. But really, the Iranian culture is new in Cuba.”

Among its most requested dishes is falafel, a typical Iranian vegetable croquette.
Also on demand is the national dish chelo kabab kubideh. It is made up of lamb, white rice, Shirazi salad, grilled tomatoes, yogurt and mint masto khiar dip.

(Soundbite) Farrokh Nourbakht, Founder of Topoly
“I am happy, because after almost 3 years many people come back over and over again, very much pleased to learn about another culture.”

For Cubans, it is a unique chance to learn a new culinary concept, after years of traditional dishes based on rice, beans and pork due to the severe economic crisis in the 1990s.

(Soundbite) Rita Pereira, Cuban Diner
“It is a one-of-a-kind place that expands our cultural and culinary knowledge and lets us learn about another country through its food.”

With up to 4 million tourists expected within the year, many self-employed Cubans are still bracing to start new businesses that will literally make the capital an amalgam of flavors.
As one of the results of the economic transformation carried out by the government in recent years, the explosion of flavors and foreign cultures has only multiplied offers and culinary delights to the country, but imaginations and expectations of a better future.

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