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.
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.