Best of 2001: Best Cuban

Andres' Cuban and Puerto Rican Restaurant
1235 Morena Boulevard, Morena District

"Old clothes" (Ropa Vieja) is how the Cubans describe shredded beef, because the meat looks like shredded old rags. Maria Dolores, Puerto Rican wife of Andres, says Cuban/Puerto Rican food has the more subtle, sweet flavors of the African-influenced Caribbean. Andres' is a low, white-walled place with jungle green carpet, spectacular flowers and arches between different areas, and an outside garden with climbing plants. Like most dishes, the Ropa Vieja (shredded beef sautéed with onions, green peppers, and tomatoes in a wine sauce) comes with rice and black beans. But surround this with plates of plátano maduro (ripe banana) or yuca frita (fried manioc) or the delicious yuca con mojo, "logs" of manioc in garlic oil. They taste almost like potato, but not quite. And for kicks, order a Guarana drink. Guarana is a red tropical fruit loaded with caffeine. In the Amazon they chew the seeds to give them energy.

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