An Evening of Chinese Food and Jazz

Photo: Archive

I was invited by my son and his wife, who live in Canada and are visiting Cuba, to TienTan, a restaurant located in Havana’s formerly populous Chinatown, now reduced to a few blocks and almost devoid of Chinese save for some descendents.

We made our way along darkened streets and broken sidewalks until we arrived at an area illuminated by paper lanterns and colored lights with restaurants on either side.

The restaurant, almost at the end of the street, is considered one of the best of its kind. It spreads out over three separate sections. The first is at street level, near singers and dancers trying to make a little money. Another is further inside, and the third, which is air-conditioned, is on the floor above.

It is a very pleasant place with first-class service and a wide selection of dishes from this Asian country, all carefully prepared and magnificently presented, which make it worth recommending. Some of the prices are high for the average Cuban, but someone with access to hard currency could afford to eat there from time to time. Foreigners, however, would consider the prices normal for this specialized type of restaurant.

After dinner we decided to take a stroll to aid digestion. We walked alongside the Capitolio, now undergoing repairs, and crossed over from Central Havana to Old Havana and to Casa Gaia, a cultural center located on Teniente Rey Street, near the old Droguería Sarrá, to hear some jazz.

The center, housed in a tastefully restored old building, mounts theatrical productions for adults and young people, art exhibitions and concerts, as well as other social and cultural events. It operates quite independently of official networks thanks to the tenacity of its director, who combines artistic talent with business acumen, and its Cuban and foreign collaborators.

Performers included the musician and composer Orlando Sánchez from Cubajazz, accompanied by Ruy López Nussa on drums, the saxophonists of 5 Pa’ Sax and Roberto García on trumpet. Whether performing instrumental solos or accompaniments with the singer Danae Blanco, the musicians displayed a high degree of interpretive skill.

There were musical offerings for all tastes — from Brasilian, American and French to Cuban. The audience, which included both Cubans and foreigners, seemed pleased, rewarding the performers with their applause in an atmosphere of joy and happiness.

In general our daily troubles were forgotten at TienTan and Casa Gaia and, before we knew it, the time had passed in the heat of a Cuban winter’s night. One is always grateful for good times.

January 7 2013

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