Saturday, August 22, 2009


During my recent stay in Miami I was able to return to a beloved restaurant that I had not visited since I was a teenager, the Cuban institution, Versailles. Like its namesake, this place is a palace, in this case of huge portions of Cuban home cooking. (I had a sublime meal of picadillo, arroz con frijoles, amarillos, and a sugary cortadito at the end, no room for flan, sadly.)

Green polyester uniformed waiters and waitresses, their names embroidered over the breast pocket swiftly served delighted diners their calorie laden meals. Abuelitos in their crisp guayaberas lingered over buchitos of black coffee. Families shared a feast. I almost wept over the multi-page menu, trying to decide between the picadillo, the bistec empanado (which due to its size would always elicit the same exlamation from my father "Ea rayo, eso no es un bistec, es una sabana! - Wow this isn't a breaded steak, it's a bed sheet!"), the pastel de platano y picadillo, or the bistec de palomilla.

The decoration made me wish I could go back and do another doctorate this one in architectural history and / or cultural studies focusing on the restaurant's design. The interior is a 1970s Panopticon, all mirrored surfaces, walls, domes, labyrinthine rooms echoing each other, meals replicating themselves visually as they also proliferate in rapid succession throughout the tables. Chandeliers like the one in my abuela's dining room, glittering in the mirrors. Naugahyde chairs squeaking beneath me, paper place mats bearing the name "Versailles" in a Gothic font.


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