While the plates have modern touches, Cuban-born architect Carlos Sobrin designed the space as an Old Havana street scene. Wrought-iron fences separate the 170-seat dining area from a cobblestone path that leads to the kitchen. Balconies jut from the walls, which are cracked and stained to mimic Cuban building facades.
The 50-seat bar is made of beige wood taken from Havana’s Hotel Nacional. Diners can choose from 13 mojitos, which range from an old-school white-rum version made with Cuban mint and sugarcane juice, to one flavored with roasted pineapple and another with beets and basil. Sweeteners, juices, and fruit purées for the cocktails—which also include coladas, caipirinhas, and pisco sours—are made in a bar kitchen upstairs.
Pernot sees this newcomer finding a distinct niche in Washington’s restaurant scene in the hands of executive chef Jason Kaufman, who was imported from the Orlando Cuba Libre (there’s another one in Atlantic City). “It’s not just the cuisine that will be different,” Pernot says. “It will be the bar, the music. It all creates its own electricity.”
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, 801 Ninth St., NW; 202-408-1600.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch (starting October 20) and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch (starting October 23) and dinner. Dinner appetizers $5 to $19, entrées $16 to $32. Through October 7, dinner is 50 percent off; October 8 through 14, it's 25 percent off.
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