Obama dines in popular creole paladar on first evening in Havana

Posted: 22-Mar-16 11:01

President Barack Obama and his family wasted no time after their arrival to Havana last Sunday afternoon, to dine at one of the capital's most popular private restaurants, famous for its traditional Cuban cuisine and for having hosted the likes of Mick Jagger and Beyonce and Jay Z. San Cristobal is one quirky and unique paladar found at the heart of Centro Habana and one waiter serving the Obamas last Sunday was particularly overwhelmed and honoured, as Spanish newspaper El Pais, reports.

Obama dines in popular creole paladar on first evening in Havana

Hours after landing in the Cuban capital, the U.S. delegation led by Barack Obama, who was also accompanied on this trip by his wife Michelle, his two daughters; Shasha and Malia, and his mother-in-law; were happily dining and mingling with the local crowd in one of Havana's more run-down neighbourhoods.

The chosen destination for their dinner was private restaurant (or paladar) San Cristobal, one peculiar dining venue in the heart of Centro Habana which stands out for its quirky (some could say cluttered) decor where walls are lined with all kinds of antique and memorabilia, including black and white photographs of old stars such as Nat King Cole standing against more recent ones, like that of Beyonce and Jay Z, taken during their visit to the island in 2013.

Reinier Mely Madonado, 33, had the honour of being the Obamas' waiter for the night and he couldn't wait to share his excitement after the event. According to his declarations to Spanish newspaper, El Pais, Reinier greeted the Obama with the following phrase:

"Hello, welcome to the paladar San Cristobal, my name is Rei and I'm gonna be your waiter. And it's a great honour for us."

Obama reportedly looked at him shining one of his charismatic broad smiles and replied:

"It's an honour for us too."

The family sat at a round table in a corner with a full-size antique clock on one side and a wooden sculpture of a saint with a single tear running down her cheek on the other. The wall behind, where Michelle was seating, was partly covered by a huge zebra skin rug.

The family sat at a round table in a corner with a full-size antique clock

On his first night in Havana, the most powerful man in the world ordered "Solomillo de res a la plancha" (grilled beef sirloin steak) with Cuban seasoning while his wife opted for a "Tentacion Habanera" (Havana Temptation) which consisted of strips of steak in a red wine sauce and which according to the waiters, reminded her of her grandfather's pepper steak.

Obama's youngest daughter, Sasha, along with her grandmother, had beef sirloin steak like Obama, while the eldest, Malia, ordered a pork bruschetta.

For drinks the First Lady ordered pinot noir but she was suggested to try the Ribera del Duero, a house special wine. Her and her mother ended up drinking three quarters of the bottle while the girls and their dad only drank water. Reinier says he offered the President some wine but he declined saying he had to work the next day.

The chosen destination for their dinner was paladar San Cristobal

When it came to the desserts, everyone had "flan de la casa" and "flan con leche" while Obama and his mother-in-law ended the meal with an espresso. Did he leave a generous tip at the end? Reinier recalls that when it was time to pay, the meal had come out about 30 Cuban Convertible Pesos ($34 USD) per person and Obama didn't take out a wallet but instead took out a small wad of money bills from his pocket and paid leaving a hefty tip behind.

Hello, welcome to the paladar San Cristobal, my name is Rei and I'm gonna be your waiter. And it's a great honour for us

Preceding that hearty Cuban meal, and under the pouring rain, the Obamas toured Old Havana and visited La Catedral amid an emotional roar from crowds of onlookers who spotted the U.S. presidential family entering the city's oldest church. Inside he met with Cuban Cardinal, Jaime Ortega, who in 2014 travelled to Washington on behalf of Pope Francis to urge the President to push for negotiations that eventually led to the reestablishment of bilateral diplomatic ties between Cuba and the U.S.

The following day the U.S. President would visit the Jose Marti memorial at the Plaza de la Revolucion and later attend a ceremony by military troops before holding a private meeting with Raul Castro at the Palacio de la Revolucion (Revolution Palace) and later hosting a joint QandA session with the press.

Today much expectation surrounds the American president's attendance to the baseball game between Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba's national team, which will take place this afternoon at the capital's Estadio Latinoamericano (Latin American Stadium).

Note: Images property of Ben Rhodes


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