"The price was right," says Carlos Camacho, president of Jubanese.
One thing that the new owners have changed right off is the restaurant's dinner policy: They're serving it seven nights a week -- that's an increase of seven nights a week.
And on Friday and Saturday nights the menu assumes a "Little Havana" guise, with authentic Cuban recipes.
"The Cuban menu includes a lot of marinated meats," Camacho says. "The marinades are citrus-based, with oregano, cumin, garlic, and onions. The food is well-seasoned without being hot-spicy." Other characteristically Cuban ingredients are plantains -- in both their green and ripe incarnations -- and yucca.
The Caribbean spin seems to be appealing to people. Although dinner business "has been a little slow both because of the summer and because the Port Deli didn't have a dinner tradition," Camacho says, "it's been picking up gradually, and there seems to be tremendous demand for Cuban food" -- so much that the kitchen is considering serving it five nights a week. Meantime, if it isn't Friday or Saturday night, you'll have to settle for the regular menu, which Camacho describes as "typical American diner comfort food."
There are new chefs all over the place. The defunct landmark Ernie's, at 847 Montgomery, reopens soon as Essex Supper Club, with a native Londoner, David Lawrence, as chef. He's cooked at 231 Ellsworth (in San Mateo) and at Cityscape Restaurant.
Diego Salinas returns to Miss Pearl's Jam House, where he'd been sous chef from 1990 to 1992. Since then he's been working for Bruce Cost at Monsoon and Ginger Island. The current chef at Miss Pearl's, Wesley Saunders, is moving to another position in the restaurant's parent corporation, Joie de Vivre.
And Paragon now has a husband-and-wife chef team, Curtis and Esin deCarion. The first-rate all-American menu continues, although with some Southern and Middle Eastern flourishes. There's now a hummus plate, and the grilled pork chop comes with cheesy grits. A gorgeous mosaic.
By Paul Reidinger