Honolulu got its first Cuban restaurant just under a year ago. Appropriately located in the Downtown-Chinatown area where all the new, trendier restaurants such as Brasserie Du Vin mingle with the old classics like Indigo and local favorite, Grand Cafe & Bakery, Soul de Cuba fits in right at home.
My family and I stopped in for a late lunch last week and upon my insistence we had one of every single on of their sandwiches on the menu. Four people, four sandwiches, perfect! Be warned: the pictures look the same, but I swear, they are all different (aside from the chips – Cape Cod? I’m guessing).
The Pescado del Rio was my personal favorite. Mojo marinated catfish breaded with panko and pressed between cuban bread with tartar sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. For locals, this would be reminiscent of a fried mahi mahi sandwich, tartar sauce and all. It’s hard to go wrong with warm bread and fried fish, though it did get quite heavy and almost greasy towards the end.
One bite into the Pan Con Bistec…and out fell and entire piece of steak, a thin 4 by 4 square. The menu describes it as slices of pan fried cuban malomilla steak, but I guess they decided to give one massive slice in place of smaller slices that would have been more practical to eat. The sandwich lacked any lively color in appearance that lettuce and tomatoes could have easily contributed and was only flavored by grilled onions in a bath of mayo smeared alllll over the pressed cuban bread.
The Media Noche was the only of the four sandwiches that came pressed on a sweet, eggy bread, similar to challah instead of cuban bread. Between the slices lay roast pork that seemingly melded into the grilled onions and swiss cheese. The pickles were a welcome addition, cutting out the heaviness clearly cause by the mayo.
I bet you’re really sick of sandwiches by now. I was. So I prayed that the last sandwich would be delicious and light. I guess one out of two isn’t bad. The Cubano featured layers of baked ham, marinated roast pork, swiss cheese and pickles. Delicious indeed, salty with a good balance with the crisp bread and soft innards. Innards, which unfortunately soaked up unreasonable quantities of mayo. Why do they do this? Why? I felt like my pores were ooooozing mayo and tartar sauce in the more unappealing way after all these sandwiches. Oh so heavy. Very very heavy. I felt the kitchen relied too much on mayo to flavor the sandwiches and cover up lower quality cuts of meats.
Will I be back? Perhaps, but not for the sandwiches. Perhaps their picadillo, or crab anchala – a pasta of tomato sauce, garlic and crabs. But a brief overview of their menu sends early warning that if you come, be ready to stomach all this heaviness that dominates the menu items!
Soul de Cuba
1121 N Bethel St.
Honolulu, HI 96813