Insight Paladares: Casa de Enrique

More than 50 years after a decisive battle was won on Cuba's southern shores by the nascent revolutionary government the Casa de Enrique or "Enrique's House" is a symbolic opportunity to break bread and be a part of the long overdue reconciliation between our country and Cuba.

You see, Enrique's House is in the seaside town of Playa Larga, a small beach town on the infamous Bay of Pigs. 

The bay penetrates Southern Matanzas province like an intrusive finger of blue water poking into the boggy Zapata swamp.  Since the Triumph of the Revolution the area around the Bay of Pigs has become a site for bird watchers, scuba divers, history buffs and beach junkies. 

Placid waters of the Bay of Pigs

Enrique got his start slowly a few years ago as he began offering an extra room to rent out to tourists.  His house soon became something like a Bed and Breakfast, known in Cuba as a Casa Particular

With no advertising his operations grew first by word of mouth.  However, he has now moved to offering online reservations and is reviewed on the major travel websites.  His success is evidence of just how quickly Cuba is moving into the international tourist market.  And as Enrique proves, some of the growth is being offered by private citizens as they create their own enterprises. 

Even if you don't plan to stay the night Enrique's House offers the perfect stop-over for some real Cuban seaside cooking while traveling between Trinidad and La Habana.

As Enrique tells it, guests began requesting dinner to be served at the house due to the lack of restaurants in tiny Playa Larga.   Taking advantage of a new Cuban law he set up his own private Paladar.

Sunrise over the Bay of Pigs

In the past three years the seaside restaurant has seen explosive growth.  While Enrique still serves individual guests his business model is now built around group tours, serving 30-50 people at once. 

Through all this growth the food has not suffered.  Octopus in olive oil and garlic sauce, grilled lobster, fillets of red snapper along with the softest most delicately textured yucca smothered in mojo crillolo, a mixture of lemon, oil, and garlic are all served together family style. 

The mixture of locally grown vegetables along with seafood that was caught just a few meters away in the bay makes the experience overly local.  Perhaps the only imported item on the table is the bottle of Tabasco Sauce which somehow made its way from Louisiana to Cuba. 

Terraza on Enrique's House

Even the seating feels more like a local family reunion than restaurant.  Long "L" shaped tables accommodate dozens of people.  Some clients will have views of the bustling kitchen, others face back out toward the bay, and most are within earshot of traditional Cuban country music being played on the terrace where you can retire for dessert and coffee.

La Casa Enrique or "Enrique's House" is open for Lunch and Dinner by reservation which can be done at +53 45 987425 or +53 52251117.  Located in Playa Larga (there is only one street in town so just look for the sign).  Perfect sunsets included nightly.

Photos and Text by Graham Sowa.