Straight From Cuba, Guest Chefs Are Bringing the Paladar Experience to Penn Quarter (Menu)

Cuba Libre’s culinary culture exchange continues on June 12.

By: Anna Spiegel

Pop-ups and supper clubs are popular dining trends in DC, but in Cuba, the tradition has long been a way for private eateries to serve diners in a landscape dominated by government-owned restaurants. Individual or family-owned operations, known as paladares, were illegal up until 1993, but the custom continues in homes and hidden-away spaces across the island. Now Cuba Libre chef-restaurateur Guillermo Pernot is bringing the tradition to Washington by inviting a number of Cuban paladar owners to cook special dinners at his Penn Quarter location. The next in the lineup is scheduled for June 12 through 14 at 6 and 8:30 PM, with Pernot and chef Alain Rivera of Havana’s Doctor Café.

Charred squid on a stick from the first paladar at Cuba Libre. Photograph by Jeff Martin.

We attended the first in the series back in January with chef Luis Alberto Alfonso Perez, and it was a fun and unusual evening. It was the toque’s first trip to the United States, not to mention his first time inside a Whole Foods to harvest ingredients for the meal. After the four courses concluded and we’d sipped the last of our rum, Perez, with Pernot translating, fielded questions about running a restaurant in Cuba and what it was like to cook in the US for the first time. If you’re looking for a pop-up dining experience that you literally can’t get otherwise, it’s a good one to check out.