It was my sister C's birthday yesterday so we celebrated by going to Versailles. Versailles is a restaurant founded in 1981 by Chef Orlando Garcia, a Cuban expatriate, and his son William Garcia. Originally located in West Los Angeles, there are now five Versailles restaurants dotted across Southern California. They serve a variety of traditional and innovative Cuban dishes, their house specialty being their garlic chicken.
Upon entering Versailles, one is overwhelmed with lively chatter filling the room. Contrary to what the atmosphere may present, you don't go to Versailles to talk, but to eat. Everything is very prompt, with orders taken quickly, and a basket of delicious garlicky, buttered baguette slices magically appearing out of nowhere. This is usually followed by the bread magically disappearing almost just as quickly.
Unless you order the paella, expect your food to come fast. This is a plus if you happen to be starving. Today I ordered my usual, the Lechon Asado, Cuban-style roasted pork. The pork itself is not dissimilar to Mexican carnitas or Hawaiian Kahlua pork. It is cooked enough to be tender, but not so much that it totally disintegrates if you try to pick it up with your fork. But what sets it apart from those dishes is that it is bathed in Versailles' garlic mojo criollo sauce. The garlic mojo criollo sauce is a thin, citrus sauce with a hint of garlic that pervades the shredded pork and also provides the marinade for the raw onion slices that top it. It is a nice counter to the lightly salted, roasted pork as well as to the fried plantains and black beans and rice that come with the dish.
The plantains are not as sweet as a Chiquita bananas, and are most comparable to fried sweet potato slices in terms of overall sweetness and consistency. The rice is almost like a buttery pilaf, and is meant to be coupled with the black beans served on the side. Altogether the dish represents a round trip affair for the tongue, with stops at salt, sour, sweet, and bitter, in varying degrees, all around the plate. Overall it is a taste adventure.
Accompanying my dinner, I also had an Ironbeer. But don't be fooled, there's no alcohol in it. Ironbeer originally was a Cuban soft drink, and it tastes similar to Peruvian Inka Cola or a fruitier Dr. Pepper. And best of all, there's no caffiene in it.
Some other notes on Versailles:
- 4 out of 5 on my ready-to-eat-o-meter, meaning the food comes almost as soon as you order it. The only faster restaurants are fast food places.
- 10 out of 10 on my Cuban-o-meter (not to be confused with my Cubano-o-meter). It is 100% Cuban as far as I know, and even sports a framed head shot of favorite Cuban son, Andy Garcia. If Andy Garcia approves, so do I.
10319 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034