At Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine, food has always been a family business. The Vilariño family fled Cuba on the historic Mariel boatlift in 1980. By 1984, Antonio, his wife Nadia, and their five daughters proudly purchased their first restaurant in Miami.
“Because we are a large family, we have more resources and are able to get ahead faster,” says Irina, the youngest of Antonio’s daughters. She shared the inspiration behind the restaurant’s name, Las Vegas. “[It’s] what we call in Spanish a fertile land, where crops are grown. There’s usually a ‘bohío’ [shack] and a river stream that flows through it.”
The family now owns 10 Las Vegas restaurant locations throughout South Florida. My visit to their Hallandale spot yielded an excellent dining experience. Upon entering the establishment, I was warmly greeted and offered indoor or outdoor seating. I opted to dine inside, where their large dining area featured lots of seating and island-inspired décor. Soothing romantic ballads and instrumental music washed over me as their server, Nicoll, explained my options.
He said I couldn’t go wrong with zarzuela de marisco—a seafood medley of lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, and fish filet. Their churrasco skirt steak or roast pork dishes would be equally essential to try. So I ordered all three!
My appetizer was the tamal con lechón, which is ground corn mash served with roast pork that is presented on a corn husk, all topped with loads of sautéed onions. The mash was a well seasoned polenta-like mixture of cornmeal and corn kernels with a fairly firm consistency. The flavor of the traditional succulent shredded pork was brightened and elevated by a simple combination of onions, garlic, and lime.
The churrasco, my first main course, was served with boiled yuca and moro, the classic black beans and rice. The grilled steak was thinly sliced, the soft yuca was slightly sweet and sat under a bed of sauteed onion. While both were tasty, their rice is a show stopper, with an array of flavors beyond words. I will single out the bay leaves as a significant contributor to my joy!
However, main course number two came along and claimed its role as the headliner of the day. The zarzuela de mariscos is delightful. The tomato-based creole sauce is filled with onions, sweet peppers, and bay leaves. The mussels, lobster tail, and fish were all tender and succulent. I know I ate too much because I didn’t want dessert until Nicoll mentioned they had guava cheesecake.
The cheesecake was sweet, delicious, and covered in guava. I’m not usually a fan of caramel, which they used to drizzle the plate for an attractive presentation. However, it couldn’t spoil my sweet tooth.
The staff at Las Vegas are warm, friendly, attentive, and a wonderful treat. The ambiance really made a difference, and the food overall outdid my expectations. The experience is an occasion worth repeating, so I can make their filete de pollo my next conquest.
Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine’s Hallandale location is at 1727 East Hallandale Beach Boulevard. They also have locations in Doral, Hollywood, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, and Pembroke Pines.