Cuba is an incredibly popular vacation destination for Canadians because vacation packages are cheap. Havana, in particular, is very interesting – it’s full of culture, dancing, art, architecture, and interesting people.
During our stay in Havana, we met many locals, got familiar with the local art scene, and tried out some of the newest restaurants. For a long time, Cuba’s food has been pretty bland, partly because imported spices are difficult to acquire as well as government regulations on restaurant privatization.
Now that private restaurants are allowed, much is changing – we found a microbrewery, Peruvian ceviche, and plenty of fusion food. However, on one particular day, we were surprised to stumble upon a street restaurant counter with Japanese flags and a hiragana menu! Tucked away in the popular Habana Vieja district, near the main shopping street of Obispo, Noriko and her Cuban husband opened their restaurant Nippon Shokudo last month, and outside of business hotels, it’s likely Havana’s only Japanese restaurant!
It was REALLY a surprise for us, because we spent a week in Havana, and the only Asian food we encountered was in Chinatown – which doesn’t even have Chinese people! Needless to say, the Chinese food there is pretty bad, and we pretty much gave up. Noriko’s food, however, is really Japanese and also oishii! Her menu items include Tonkatsu, Shogayaki, Katsuudon, Karaage, and Teriyaki, as well as a kick-ass(awesome) mango juice.
Somehow, she’s been able to import a limited amount of Japanese mayo, okonomiyaki sauce, and some other important ingredients into Cuba from Japan, but in our interview with her, she could definitely use miso, ajinomoto, and refill ink (IC69 black – ink, not cartridge) for her Epson 405A printer. If you plan on visiting Havana from Canada or Japan, please help her out! According to Noriko, it’s really difficult to get these items in Cuba, and import taxes are extremely high.
Noriko and her husband also hasn’t been able to get chairs and tables, so right now, ever ything is takeout, which is okay. Given the amount of local Cubans crowding her stall, we expect this to change soon. We also asked her some other interesting questions, so please watch our video to find out more about her story.
If you visit Havana, here’s how you can find and contact Nippon Shokudo:
Near the intersection of Aguacate and San Juan de Dios streets in Habana Vieja.
Phone (Noriko): 54137829
Email: see photo
Note: Make sure you write the above information down before going because internet is extremely rare and expensive in Havana!