Havana Restaurants

Shortages of raw materials and a bureaucratized approach to food preparation in state-owned restaurants have produced many a mediocre meal, but with the privateer restaurants leading the way, Cuban cuisine is coming back. For the best cooking in Havana, seek out the paladares (privately owned establishments; the name, which literally means "palates," was cribbed from a popular Brazilian soap

opera in which the heroine makes her fortune with a roadside restaurant named "El Paladar de Raquel"). Call ahead to reserve a table if you go to a paladar, and never believe a taxi driver who swears to you that the place is closed; he gets a commission for taking you to the place he is flacking for.

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