Cuba Libre in Penn Quarter has a new chef at the helm: Angel Roque. The Havana native was formerly the head chef at Restaurante Café del Oriente—one of Havana’s established fine dining spots—and owned a restaurant in the capital city before moving to the United States last year. He comes most recently from chef/owner Guillermo Pernot’s Cuba Libre flagship in Philadelphia.
“I wanted to know Cuban food from other perspectives, see how they regard and interpret it in other places” says Roque on his move to the States. “What is their notion of Cuba in terms of food, flavors.”
Though a few menu changes are still in the works, Roque hopes to showcase lesser-known Cuban specialties, as well as modern riffs on traditional dishes. Both he and Pernot are fans of Havana’s Chinatown, which was established by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century, and China-Cubano cuisine. Diners at Cuba Libre may find specials like steamed dumplings stuffed with black beans and maduros (fried plantains), Cuban sandwich spring rolls, or Peking chicken.
“There’s an idea in the world about our food,” says Roque. “People always think about ropa vieja and picadillo. It’s still very popular. We’re doing real Cuban food with Cuban flavor, but with a twist.”