Unlike other Starr restaurants where the outstanding decor surpasses the quality of the menu, Alma de Cuba finds its strength in truly delicious food and drinks, while remaining underwhelming when it comes to design and structure.
The first order of business upon arriving at Alma de Cuba is to ask for a Mojito. Almost every option is refreshing and strong, and there are many to choose from including the classic, suave and el jefe, which is made with premium 10 cane rum, sugar, muddled mint, and lime juice ($12).
The menu is varied with exceptional choices across the board. The empanadas ($12) are served sizzling hot right from the kitchen to your plate (the waiter literally drops it on your plate), and the ceviches come in an assortment of exotic flavors such as the lobster and crab with coconut ($18) or the Ecuadorian shrimp ($13) with roasted tomatoes, chives and coconut.
The entrees follow suit using a combination of tasty spices and ingredients creating rich, flavorful dishes. The sugar cane tuna ($28) is an absolute knockout. It’s seared tuna coated with a caramel rum glaze placed on sugar cane skewers, served atop individual beds of lightly creamed spinach. The xim xim ($30) is a close runner up. Large shrimp in a spicy coconut sauce with shredded chicken is surrounded by bacon wrapped bananas. As unlikely as it sounds, bacon and banana make for a killer sweet and salty combination.
For dessert, check out the chocolate mani tart ($9), a creamy peanut butter mousse mixed with chocolate and topped with chocolate ganache. The dish is served a la mode. The most unique desert, however, is the chocolate cigar, which arrives at the table resembling, you guessed it, a Cuban cigar. This edible cigarette is a sweet almond cake wrapped in chocolate mousse, dusted with cocoa powder and served with an edible (lit) matchbook. A word of advice, blow it out before you eat it!
Alma de Cuba stands slightly apart from most of the other Starr restaurants in the city. It’s a place that infuses food with rich flavors and unique combinations, rendering it a must stop on the long list of Stephen Starr eateries in Philadelphia.