San Cristóbal is named after its owner, chef and driving inspiration, Carlos Cristóbal Márquez Valdés. The place belies its location in Central Havana and exudes authenticity and charm. Cluttered, eclectic, this is a still lived-in space occupying the downstairs floor of an early 20th-century mansion. Piles of old books are stacked atop beautiful old furniture; unique black and white photos jostle for space with antique record covers and bull fighting posters, while a selection of clocks, religious artefacts and even a full-size zebra pelt add to the mix. China elephants share the front room with a model Red Indian and a shrine to the black Virgin Mary (famously depicted in Our Lady of Regla image in the church of the same name). The food is purely Cuban-creole–Malanga (taro), yucca (cassava), cerdo asado (roast pork), lobster, fresh fish, shrimp and other traditional fare. This is not, however, the bland standard fare to be found in many state restaurants. A medium rare steak is a medium rare steak, not bloody as hell or burnt to a crisp. Perhaps the place is over-dependent on Carlos but at least while he is there, the food is reliably good. The desserts are expansive and perhaps here the imagination runs a little wilder with the Pudín San Cristóbal (pudding made with eggs, fruit, milk and almonds), excellent; the fruit tart and rice puddings, pretty passable, as well as the standard and omnipresent flan. The wine list is broad enough and reasonably priced.
Appetizers at La Comercial San Cristobal
I can’t think of anything I don’t like about this paladar (other than the bathroom lock). The place is beautiful, the location is great, the food is fantastic, the service is friendly and the prices are not too bad for what you get. I have previously mentioned the delicious oxtail, but my other favorite in this place is the appetizer platter (called Las Mercedes). This is basically a sampler of the many appetizers of the house: Spanish tortilla, caramelized eggplant, garlic octopus, deep fried fish, variety of cheeses, malanga fritters, smoked salmon and ceviche are among the samples served in the platter. One of these long with a bottle of wine and you are set for a delicious light dinner…