107-10 70th Road
Forest Hills, NY11375
If Forest Hills has a restaurant that never seems to have a bad day, it's Cabana. On any given night, it's crowded with a line. On most days, the wait can be close to a half hour, and I've been told an hour and a half on more than one occasion (in case you were wondering, no, I didn't wait). The other night was no exception and despite the rain Pike and I were still told that a table for two would be about 15-20 minutes.
Is it me, or are there relatively few Latin restaurants in the city (other than Mexican)? There seems to be a Sushi joint on every corner, and you can't trip on a sidewalk crack without falling into a new burger place, but look around for some decent fried plantains outside of Corona and you're shit out of luck. Thankfully, I live near Cabana. Cabana is loud, bustling, somewhat cramped, and while it's definitely not the cheapest meal you could get, the food's good and the atmosphere is light and fun. It has far and away the most diverse customers of any restaurant that I've been to in quite a while, both ethnically and age-wise. Our waiter was chipper, served us promptly, and didn't need to take notes. Given the long lines that Cabana seems to have an endless supply of, it had been years since I was here last, so I wasn't really sure what to expect anymore.
According to our waiter, Cabana's two most popular drinks are their sangria and their mojitos. So I got the mojito and Pike got a red sangria while choosing our dinner. Cabana isn't cheap, by the end of the meal, we dropped over $70 each, so bear that in mind. Pike's starter were the Baccalaitos. He thought they were fantastic. I thought they were good, but uninspired. Baccalaitos are deep fried, battered cod filets layered three deep with an avocado puree sandwiched between them. I was far happier with my choice, the Ceviche Mixto, a shrimp/octopus/calamari/scallop ceviche dish with huge tostado chips. If you're a bit vague on what ceviche is, or at least is supposed to be, it's when you "cook" the fish by marinating it in lemon and lime juice. The citric acid does the work of the stove, the fish is served cold, and it's intensely refreshing. My friend Mr. Dogz loves making his own. In any event, the ceviche appetizer at Cabana was spot-on perfect and come summer, when the heat and the humidity begin to make us feel like a bunch of miserable Miamians, this is what you should get.
Pike has a soft spot for paella, so he ordered the Paella Marinera, a seafood paella that, for a few extra bucks, they tossed a lobster tail on top of. The paella itself was very good. Very good. But look at the picture there. See the cast iron skillet filled with all that delectable saffron rice, scallops, clams and shrimp? Now see that plate just above it that also has a mountain of food on it? You could order this dish and easily split it between two people. Easily. There's no way that any one person could finish this. Likewise my dish, the Coco Cabana Pollo, was also massive. It's a chicken and vegetable stew, basically, in a heavy coconut curry soup with coconut rice in the center. Except for the fact that the potatoes in the dish were undercooked by more than an acceptable amount, the entree was great. It was just huge. If they gave me half as much (and cooked the potatoes more), I'd have been more than happy.
Dessert was Cabana's weak spot. Pike ordered the Flan, which he took two bites of and pushed aside. I ordered a Fried Banana dessert. Battered and fried banana with a dusting of powdered sugar, some chocolate syrup and a small scoop of banana ice cream. I liked it plenty, but I think I liked it less than I should have because, frankly, the coffee was so incredibly bad. It was just terrible. "I'm pretty sure they ran out of beans and instead brewed dirt and cigarette ashes" I said, unable to finish my cup.
Here are my recommendations when you go: get plowed with a pitcher or two of sangria, that goes without saying. Get the ceviche then split a paella (with lobster). If you can still stand up under your own power and want dessert, get the fried bananas and maybe a glass of milk to wash it down with. If you're desperate for coffee, there are plenty of options just around the corner.
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