Months after it was first announced, La Habanera, the new café Cubano from the same impresarios behind Biiru, Escondite, and the imminent Koa Lua, a Hawaiian concept, is here. The handsome restaurant (1216 Union, in the former Café Crystal) further cements entrepreneur Yann Levy's foothold in the area. Together with partners Moti Meslati and Yossi Ohana, Levy has given central downtown three (soon to be four) vibrant spots over the last few years. On the heels of the Japanese inspired Biiru, and the Mexican inspired Escondite, La Habanera borrows aspects of Cuban culture and imagery to set its mood. The compact 30-seater was designed by the partners themselves, and the menu (see photo gallery above) features snackables like croquetas, ceviche, a 'Bao Cubano', adobo ribs, and tamarind-anchiote beef skewers. An extensive cocktail list helps wash it all down.
"We did a friends and family dinner last Thursday and it went well," reports Levy. "The feedback was good. I'm curious to see how people will like it on a bigger scale. We've kept some classics, and had fun tweaking them a bit. For people that expect Cuban food that reminds them of their vacations, I guess we won't really match their expectations." As for why the restaurateur is so bullish on downtown Montreal, Levy responds that "we just saw potential. We started with Biiru and we built from that. Neighbourhood-wise, there's Place des Arts and the Quartier des Spectacles. It's a growing area, surrounded by offices, and new residents. We strongly believe in it."
Status: La Habanera, 1216 Union, (514) 375-5355. Now open Tuesday to Saturday as of 5:30 p.m.