Amazingly for a city by the sea Havana has precious few places to eat with a view to the deep blue ocean. Rio Mar has a whole terrace overlooking the where the Rio Almendares flows into the sea, opposite the historic 1830 Club (watch out for nights where regaeton blasts across the bay!). This little bay is sheltered but gives you a sense and smell of the ocean without the waves.
Since the opening in February 2012, Rio Mar has gone straight to the top of most expatriate pop charts for dining options. This is on account of not just the fabulous location but also, attentive service, fabulous food and an attention to minimalist elegant décor. You can sit inside but outside of the really sweltering summer months it is the terrace that draws you in. Bear in mind for the summer months you may feel the heat inside, they could do with some more ceiling fans for the central tables.
It is not the cheapest, a main course will set you back CUC 13-18, but it is worth it. Baby Châteaux Briand, lobster cocktail, spicy pork, garlic grilled fish–the menu is short but good. Drinks are reasonably priced, cocktails nicely made and the wine selection limited but with some good options.
In late 2012 it seems that there was a change of chef and there was something of a rough patch in terms of the food quality. We are happy to report that as of February 2013 the quality is back and this is absolutely one of our favorite places equally good for lunch or dinner.
Chocolate tart and key lime pie at Rio Mar
It was nice to see that Rio Mar had fixed the “down” reported in this column some months ago and now includes reasonable priced wines in its menu. We also are happy to report another “up” which we found in out last visit. That is the desserts, specifically the chocolate tart and the key lime pie; both are creamy, tasty, not two sweet, beautifully presented and delicious. Don’t leave without one on your next visit to this very pretty place by the water.
Wine selection at Rio Mar: This is a handsome paladar in Miramar, in the area known as La Puntilla. The water locates it, the view is great and the décor is gorgeous. Nevertheless this paladar has failed to deliver wine options for the drinkers looking for an inexpensive food-friendly red. In the last visits we have been presented not with a wine list but with an array of bottles with complicated labels from France, Spain, Argentina and Chile with prices ranging from 35 to 85 cucs per bottle. Come on! What about an unpretentious Villa Maipo or Santa Digna for the unpretentious drinkers?
Rio Mar (restaurant review) Miramar, Havana
This is one of the new restaurants that have opened up in the last little while since the government has made it easier for them to do so. This place has only been open for 5 months and I’ve heard some talk about it so I thought I would check it out. The main reason I wanted to eat here was for the view from the patio. It’s a Paladar, which means the restaurant is in a house and this one sits on an inlet at the entrance to the Almendares river that cuts through the city of Havana. It has a beautiful view of this part of the city with the ‘Torreon de Santa Dorotea de La Chorrere’ within sight. This is a small fortress that was completed in 1762 by the same Italian designer who did the one in Cojimar. It now houses a small restaurant called the ‘Meson La Chorrera’. I always see this building on my way to Miramar but never from this angle. The area in which the house is located in has a name and it’s ‘La Puntilla’ (small point) in Miramar, which may help when giving directions to your taxi driver.
Upon arriving my first thought was…”It doesn’t look very nice from the outside”. I know better in Cuba, first appearances can often be deceiving. Once you enter however you’re transported to another time and place. The decor is simplistic, minimal, and clean, there isn’t too much furniture, just a few tables for diners, a bar, and waiters stand and set behind some couches in a separate area a table that could accommodate 12. Finally we get to the best part of the restaurant, the patio. It’s fairly big but only set up for about 30 with it’s own bar at one end in case they’re busy. There was a beautiful view of the city and it felt wonderful having dinner right on the water as the sun went down. It wasn’t too busy that evening and a Cuban friend of mine had told me it was expensive. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.
The menu had a variety of goodies and I didn’t know what to choose. I like whole fish but it wasn’t on the menu. For starters my date had the Shrimp Cocktail, which was basically boiled shrimp on a plate with two sauces on the side. It was presented nicely but we expected it in a cup of some kind already mixed together. It was a fair portion and the shrimp were fresh and a decent size. I had the Octopus in Garlic and Oil. I enjoyed it but it was really heavy and only had a little. There were a few other things I would like to try like the Ceviche or the Pork Ribs & the Tostones next time. We both had the same main course, the Filet of Sole in white wine sauce. The fish was prepared well and was tasty with just a few vegetables and a pinch of potatoes. When the waiter was taking our order I sensed by his description of the food that the mains weren’t coming with big side dishes, especially after he pointed out the sides available to us on the menu. We opted for a couple of mashed potatoes at 2.50cuc a pop. The mashed potatoes were actually quite good and would recommend sharing one for two persons.
The dessert selection was sparse with only cheesecake, ice cream and a dessert of the day. They didn’t have a wine list either and had to zero in on a wine and ask for prices I don’t like that. I did find a decent Chardonnay from Italy for 28cuc. A little higher than the average Paladar in Havana but not too bad. The service was pleasant and helpful. The waiter was mature and obviously experienced.
In conclusion, I will go back and try some of the other dishes. The food and service were good but the experience of dining on the water is irresistible. My dinner for 2 with 10% gratuity included on the bill was 69.85cuc. I posted a picture of the bill below. A little high by Cuban standards for what we got but worth it in my opinion.