Caña, a Cuban restaurant in West New York, should take its rightful place among the top restaurants in this metropolitan area. But unlike those restaurants, where the kitchen is the nucleus of the operation, the entirety of intimately sized Cana is the nucleus, with the service and ambiance given the same loving respect as the food.
Walking into the restaurant instantly recalls winter nights spent beside your family home’s hearth, and the first greeting by the ever-efficient and pleasant staff cements this notion of cozy familiarity.
Upon arriving, my guest and I were led into a restaurant with rich-hued accents and soft lighting fixtures, leafy plants amidst upscale candle-topped black tables. Always one to choose the interior seat, I was delighted to find myself sitting amongst a row of cozy, rich-hued throw pillows that line the right wall.
As we settled in, a warm bread basket was promptly brought to the table, along with a menu that clearly demonstrated quality over quantity.
Service and ambiance are given the same loving respect as the food.
Appetizers range from $4 dishes Croquetas and Tamal En Hoja, to a $7 Quesadilla de Espinaca y Champinon (spinach and wild mushroom quesadilla with white truffle oil, mozzarella, pico de gallo, and sour cream), to an $8 Yuca Frita y Chorizo, to the $12 appetizer extraordinaire Jamon Serrano y Quesos (selection of daily cheeses, Serrano ham, pan con tomates, quince, chorizon, and olives).
We also sampled the sauteed spinach side dish Espinaca Salteada ($5) from a list that also featured plantains, rice, and bean sides ranging from $3 to $6.
The Espinaca Salteada is a transformative dish, one that entreats the “no greens please” diner to toss aside his bitter remembrance of spinach and taste what it can become when it’s hugged by garlic and butter.
A lotta ensalada
Caña also offers one of the most respectable Ensaladas lists that I’ve ever come across, with salads priced from $6 to $12, with options to include grilled chicken, shrimp, or skirt steak for $4, $5, and $6, respectively.
Unlike other restaurants, their salad list is not just an afterthought, the token two or three salads to round out a menu. Rather, each salad is an extension of the discerning palette Caña appeals to with its authentic appetizer and entrée menus. There’s the Ensalada de Calamari ($9), which serves up crispy calamari, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, and sweet plantains, drizzled with sherry vinaigrette. And then there’s the Ensalada de Espinaca ($8), which alone proves Cuban food to be a serious contender to other ethnic restaurants that rule the Hudson, with baby spinach, crispy bacon, roasted sweet potatoes, drunken goat cheese, tomatoes, and onions, tossed with lemon thyme vinaigrette.
For lunchtime diners, Caña offers sandwiches and hamburgers ranging from $4 offerings like Sandwich de Dos Quesos and Jamon y Queso; to the $5 Croqueta Preparada with ham croquette, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and cilantro aioli on Cuban bread. Plantain chips or French fries can be added for $2 extra.
The heart of the meal
The entrée list featured a strong selection of well-priced ethnic Cuban dishes, with meat, chicken, and seafood options for any palette, most of which are accompanied by traditional sides rice and beans.
Entrees offered include savory beef dish Picadillo ($10); roast pork dish Lechon Asado ($11), with garlic mojo and arroz moro; seared chicken breast dish Bistec de Pollo ($12); sauteed shrimp dish Camarones Enchilados ($16); pan seared salmon dish Salmon a la Plancha ($16), with sautéed spinach, tomatoes, coconut essence, and sweet potato fries; grilled skirt steak dish Churrasco ($17); and land and sea dish Banderillas ($18), with grilled chicken, shrimp, and skirt steak skewers, sauteed spinach, shitake mushrooms, and baby green salad.
I ordered the Ropa Vieja ($11), a braised shredded skirt steak dish garnished with tomato, onions, pepper, and garlic and accompanied by a mound of white rice and beans, which left me with the cozy feeling wrought by a hot stew.
My fellow diner ordered the Pollo Asado ($16), Cuban style chicken with a Cuban fried rice casserole on the side. The quince and chipotle sauce atop the chicken, like the meal itself, initially leaves its mark as a sweet dish, but quickly revs up your engines with its spicy kick, its changing flavors.
Desserts, catering, and more
To conclude our dining experience, I ordered the caramel-flavored flan dessert, which proved a masterful interplay between the semi-bitter aspect of the flan drizzle and the sugary, shaving cream-consistency custard. My companion ordered the house special, Tres Leches, a sweet sponge cake dessert that left no questions answered regarding its popularity.
Caña (5402 Park Ave., West New York) is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and can accommodate private parties for parties of 20 people or less. A catering option is available, as well as delivery for orders of $20 and more.
For more information, call Caña at (201) 758-8101.
Deanna Cullen can be reached at email@example.com.