Salsa Suarez offers the perfect opportunity to escape Varadero’s hotel buffet lines and put the peninsula on the map as offering some of Cuba’s most innovative and delicately prepared cuisine. Just a block and a half away from white sand beaches, this paladar rivals any top Havana establishment in location, atmosphere, and overall quality.
Varadero is the name of the town on the Hicacos peninsula in northern Cuba, just over two hours drive from Havana. For the vast majority of travelers the town is not a destination. Dozens of all-inclusive mega-resorts lining the beach are the big tourist draw, and even with Havana’s tourist boom these resorts still receive the majority of Cuba’s visitors.
However, for those willing to take a few hours to explore outside the all-inclusive wrist band area the town of Varadero offers a laid-back, tourist friendly beach vibe. Well-kept sidewalks, easy transportation (pick between bikes, walking, horse and buggy, bus or taixs), and lots of knick-knack shopping opportunities abound. Even better, you get to move closer to the edge of the tourist bubble and see a bit more of daily Cuban life.
As more visitors have caught on to the charms of Varadero a new market for beach home rentals and private restaurants (paladares) has bloomed. The best of the latter, by far and away, is Salsa Suarez.
Salsa Suarez is not anything close to a rice-and-beans traditional Cuban food restaurant. It is an envelope pushing space for creativity served up in an elegant environment with exceptional service.
There are some signature dishes such as lamb risotto in red wind wine sauce, grilled fish filet (there is usually a variety to choose from) with olive oil and fresh herbs, and creole chicken in a Cuban honey, bitter orange and mustard sauce.
Other dishes, especially the starters, change depending on what is fresh that week and how successful the fishermen were the day before. The abundance of fresh mangoes in the summer months inspires fare such as the fresh tuna salad tower stacked with mango and chopped almonds.
But just because Salsa Suarez isn’t a rice and beans place doesn’t mean there are not hints of Cuba on the menu. If it is potato season look for the ropa vieja (shredded beef) on a bed of shoestring french fries drizzled with homemade BBQ sauce and topped with two sunny side up quail eggs. You can call it a comfort food or a guilty pleasure, no matter, it is delicious.
The bar produces all the Cuban standard coctails with precision, however if you really want an experience ask for a gin and tonic. The drink is prepared at the table and you are offered your choice of a variety of aromatic herbs and fruits to enhance your drink if you wish.
Salsa Suarez is a stand out restaurant not just in Varadero, but in Cuba. It makes the peninsula a dinning destination and gives you a great excuse to skip your all-inclusive resort buffet one night, go into town, and broaden your Cuban experience.
Salsa Suarez is located on 31st Street (Calle 31) between 1st and 3rd Avenue in Varadero. You can call for reservations 045 612009 or visit their website www.salsasuarezvaradero.com. They are also on all the big social media sites. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day except Tuesday.
Written by Graham Sowa.