Chef Luis Alberto Alfonso Perez, or more simply Chef Lucio, has the culinary clout of Grant Achatz or Thomas Keller in his hometown, Havana, Cuba. There in his restaurants El Gijonés, Bar Oviedo, La Terraza and Asturias he’s earned recognition for pushing the possibilities of Cuban cuisine. This week, as the first installment of Cuba Libre’s “Pop-Up Paladar” series, Lucio will also own bragging rights to being one of the first Cuban chefs to visit the U.S. in nearly 50 years. “Other chefs have come here from Cuba,” Cuba Libre Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot told Grub Street. “But they all stayed. Lucio is coming here and then going back.”
And while here, he’s going to replicate the experience of his restaurants with the pop-up paladar dinners for three nights, beginning tomorrow, January 11. Paladars are the new generation of private enterprise restaurants taking root in peoples homes and unconventional settings in Cuba. Each night two seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m. will be available for prix fixes dinner, which cost $39 per person. Pernot likens them to an introduction to the innovative approaches to Cuban cookery that chefs like Lucio are putting forth. “The menu will be all innovative cuisine,” Pernot said. And that means things like lobster crudo get accompanied by things like pineapple sorbet, thinly sliced eggplant substitutes for pasta dough in a lamb ropa vieja ravioli and caramelized garlic tops a cheese flan. You can check out the full menu here.
In June, Pernot will host another of Cuba’s finest, Chef Alain Rivera Santana of Doctor Café, where he practices his own take on Cuban cooking based on his years of studying its history and many forms. And then a third chef will visit in October.