There are two types of restaurant management philosophies: wanting to say yes and wanting to say no. Havana Grill wants to scream ?yes? at the top of its spacious lungs.
The former Mambo Grill space has come along nicely. Much more muted and stylish, Havana was nearly empty on Thursday evening with 3 or 4 people at the bar and no more than 3 tables in the dining room. A poor turn-out even by recession standards. But the true measure of management is whether the restaurant treats the few patrons it has with the utmost attention rather than pretend its poor attendance is a mark of exclusivity.
Anyone who has tried to order egg whites at Twisted Spoke or make a substitution at Orange understands the ?no? philosophy of management. This discipline teaches that we have more than enough business and if you don?t like our menu please make room for those who do. Spoke, Orange, the Soup Nazi and virtually every restaurant in the UK make for exhibits in the first camp. In the second is the Gibson?s family of restaurants, Red Light and now Havana.
The selected appetizer for the evening was chips and guac with the probability of ordering more since we were a party of 3. No more was needed. For $6.95, Havana gives a mountain of chips, 2 different salsas and a healthy heap of guacamole. Great start. Until we ran out of guac while still looking at a slightly smaller chip mountain. The server happily refilled it and didn?t charge us anything. THIS is what service is all about. Do wait staff not realize that nickel-and-diming customers will always reflect poorly on their tip? Whereas this kind of thing could easily double the jar. And this wasn?t all. My two companions, in no mood for giant entrees wished to order from the lunch menu where all the goodies like enchiladas and quesadillas hide. No problem. Happy to accommodate. And we were happy to be accommodated and tip accordingly.
The food itself was a winner for two out of three dishes and even the third was probably a winner save for my personal prejudice against sweet sauces with cheesy dishes. I had the Chiles en Nogadas which were ? get this ?really spicy! 9 out of 10 chilies will be so oven-neutered that virtually no hints of capsaicin could survive so this was a refreshing little nip. However, that sweet sauce bathing them ? I just could not find the complement. But the other two diners loved them and accused me of not being open to variety. Perhaps but much better did I like the portabella quesadillas which were filled with thick, meaty chunks of the venerable fungus, not like most places where they presume that just because the mushroom will be covered in cheese, its own quality does not matter. And the best dish of the evening was the enchiladas. Perfectly seasoned and huge, their great taste made one want to ignore sharing-etiquette and grab larger portions before anyone saw.
Also worthy of praise is the peach daiquiri which was absolutely delicious. It could have been just a little stronger though but then it probably wouldn?t have tasted as good and I would not have had 5 of them. (Yes I would have.) The Mojito, however, was so sweet that drinking it quickly could very well have caused a sugar high which makes for a contradictory effect with booze. And the key lime pie ? although not spectacular ? was worth every penny of the $4.95 it cost. All told, Havana is a great deal with excellent service. We be come again soon.