Craig LaBan finds that Jose Garces’s Rosa Blanca may suffer from a split personality but is worth it when it comes to Cuban classics.
Rosa Blanca is at its best when embracing its Cuban comida soul. The ropa vieja was stewed to brisket silk, profound with a subtle molasses sweetness and sneaky red fresno chili spice. Flavorful cubes of pork-shoulder masitas were intense with savory adobo seasoning, practically melting on the tongue. The garlicky roast chickens, meanwhile, are among the most flavorful in town, dripping oregano and achiote-tinted essence down from the spit onto baby potatoes that turn yellow with flavor. With a crock of perfect black beans and rice on the side, it’s a satisfying value for $18.
Two Bells – Very Good
Rosa Blanca still seeking an identity [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Rosa Blanca [Foobooz]
Masitas de puerco. Photography by Michael Persico
Jose Garces can take you places. And the most compelling ones are those you’d have the hardest time reaching on your own. That’s why Amada, with its broad embrace of Spain, has always been second in my book to Tinto’s deep dive into Basque country. And it’s one reason JG Domestic’s all-American pantry, for all its ambition, has always felt more expendable than Distrito’s gaudy fantasia of luchador masks and tequila-cured ceviche.
So if there was any silver lining to the closure of Chifa, whose Peruvian-Chinese cuisine was Garces’s most inspired adventure, it was the news that its replacement would be a destination that gets stamped on even fewer American passports: a Cuban diner.
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So Avance’s opening might be the big news tonight, but come Monday at 7am, Jose Garces’s dead-on rendition of a classic Miami Cuban diner, Rosa Blanca, will be hitting the scene.
The Foobooz News Team rolled up on Rosa Blanca (the former Chifa, 707 Chestnut Street) just ahead of tonight’s staff-on-staff dinner, and can I tell you how much I loved this place? Seriously, I’ve been pining for some seriously good Cuban food since leaving Tampa more years ago than I care to mention, and this might finally be the place that brings it home. We didn’t get to try a lot–just a few rum-heavy cocktails (including a very well-served Cuba Libre), some ropa vieja (which was excellent), a bowl of black beans and rice and the best fried yucca I’ve had in a decade or more of looking EVERYWHERE for it.
More on Rosa Blanca »
Can’t get enough dancing on Friday night? Then check out the new Saturday brunch party at Alma de Cuba. All three floors of Stephen Starr’s Cuban restaurant are transformed into a brunch-and-dance affair with progressive DJs, Latin brunch favorites and lots of mimosas.
Doors open at 11 a.m. with dishes ranging from French toast and mini banana pancakes with crispy Serrano ham and candied walnuts to a chorizo and Manchego breakfast quesadilla and Cuban sandwich. Get those plates polished off by 1 p.m. because that’s when the DJ begins spinning in earnest.
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Construction is underway at 707 Chestnut Street as Jose Garces continues work converting Chifa into Rosa Blanca, a Cuban diner. The diner will be similar to retro-Cuban diners found in South Florida and will feature an open kitchen with stainless steel and white subway tile. A pink and faux-marble lunch counter runs along the open kitchen. Black-and-white tile flooring completes the diner feel. The main dining room is laid out similar to Chifa’s, with booths along the walls and tables down the middle.
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This Saturday, July 13th Jose Garces will close his Chifa at 707 Chestnut Street after a four year run. Garces will replace the Peruvian-Cantonese concept with a Cuban diner this fall in the same location. The Cuban diner will offer the likes of empanadas, Cubano sandwiches and Ropa Veija. And in keeping with the diner theme, there will be a malta fountain that will offer milkshakes.
Garces says “It is now time for a new flavor to hit Washington Square. We want to appeal to the neighborhood’s day and nighttime scenes, to both locals and tourists alike.” Garces has a background in cooking Cuban food, one he honed at Alma de Cuba, where he was once executive chef.
This is the first closure of a Garces restaurant. The Chicago raised chef has been on a meteoric rise since opening Amada back in 2005. Since then he’s opened 15 restaurants across the country, become an Iron Chef, written two cookbooks and started a charitable foundation.
Jose Garces Group [Official Site]
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar is known for providing a gateway to the forbidden pleasures of Cuba and now chef/partner Guillermo Pernot is updating and expanding his menu with new dishes inspired by his recent travels in Cuba.
The new menu features Tapas Tuesdays, a fun, all-you-can-eat tasting experience for the entire table going for just $26.95 per person.
It starts today, Tuesday, June 18 and guests can choose from over 20 delicious items to tailor their Tapas Tuesday experience, including mariquitas, the restaurant’s popular trio of dips, ceviches, Barrio Chino Chicken Wings (pictured), Asian BBQ-glazed wings served with pickled seaweed salad and sweet chili dipping sauce and Boquerones, marinated white anchovy fillets with organic grape tomatoes, seedless cucumber, Kalamata olive salpicón salad and crispy Lavash flatbread.
Other new dishes »
In the past couple of years, Philadelphia has become a good restaurant city. But what is it going to take to make us great?
It was one hell of a summer.
In terms of restaurant developments—openings, radical changes and arrivals both large and small—it was huge. The reopening of Le Bec Fin alone might’ve been enough to satisfy in a slower season. The debut of Shake Shack on Sansom hit the city like a cheeseburger-flavored Second Coming. Our penchant for hot-weather trend-humping brought jumped-up poutine from Alla Spina (putting a fresh twist on a fad that’s been dangerously close to being played out at least twice in recent years), haute scrapple at Rittenhouse Tavern, tiki pop-ups, high-end South Philly hot doggery, and an end to our city’s shameful ramen shortage.
Summer polished our image as a solid restaurant town by filling in embarrassing holes in our culinary landscape. And we did good. But because I am a man perpetually dissatisfied with what I have, I can’t help but look and see what’s still missing. Philly is on its way to being a great restaurant city once again, but now that we’ve got the cheeseburgers, the ramen and the fancy-pants French food covered, here’s what needs to happen next:
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This Monday, August 13th Douglas Rodriguez, the chef of Alma de Cuba, will be teaming up with Chef Enrique Nunez of Paladar La Guardia in Havana, Cuba for a one-night-only collaboration dinner. The Cuban native is visiting colleague Rodriguez to prepare a five course menu for lucky guests.
There will be a reception from 6 to 7 p.m. which for $25 includes snacks and cocktails. Then the two chefs will be cooking up their special menu with reservations available from 7:30-9:30. The five course menu is $80 per person with wine pairings for $115. The event will also be filmed, as a documentary is being prepared about Rodriguez and Nunez.
For the full menu, read on. Read more »
The Havana Room in Northern Liberties opens tonight. The restaurant replaces last year’s Chenango as the former Arrow Swim Club is being reborn as North Shore Beach Club.
The new restaurant will bring Cuban fare to the indoor/outdoor space along Germantown Avenue behind the Piazza at Schmidts. Look for ceviches, empanadas and chicharones to start. For a main course try the braised oxtail, plantain crusted snapper or suckling pig. A full bar will offer a special mojito menu with ten varieties to choose from.
Check out the Havana Room’s Facebook page for a glimpse of what will be on Chef Angel Diaz Rivera’s menu.
1031 Germantown Avenue