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Versailles Cuban Restuarant

January 28, 2015

A few years after I graduated from UCLA, a friend of mine who lived in the same area I did, asked me if I wanted to join him for dinner to catch up at a Cuban restaurant in our neighborhood.  I had heard people talking about this place before while I was in school.  It supposedly served the best, most affordable Cuban food in a really relaxed, down home environment.  It was a local neighborhood place that I’d driven by time and time again but never stopped at before.  So, when my friend invited me to go, I jumped at the chance.  In the end, I fell in love with the food and couldn’t understand why I’d never tried it before.  Fast forward almost 10 years and my husband and his co-workers happened to go to this same restaurant for an office outing.  When my husband came home that night, he couldn’t stop raving about the food he had at this Cuban restaurant and he asked me why I’d never taken him before.  All this time later, we were still living in the same neighborhood, and the thought that I’d been here before and never taken him in the 4 years he’d lived here was mind boggling to him.  Actually, it was mind boggling to me too because again, we’d driven past it several times before and somehow, even though I enjoyed my experience at this restaurant with my friend 10 years previously, I’d never actually gone back to eat at this restaurant.  Now was the time to rectify that, we had to go and visit this Cuban restaurant together.

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Versailles, pronounced with three syllables, not two because after all this is a Cuban restaurant, not a French one, has been a staple in West Los Angeles for since 1981.  As the brainchild of a Cuban immigrant in 1967, Orlando Garcia and his son William, developed and created the menu for Versailles using recipes and techniques that Orlando learned back home in Cuba.  Today, with 4 different Versailles locations, Versailles is most well known for its special garlic marinade sauce which is served with most of their dishes.  This is the sauce that everyone flocks to Versailles for, and what keeps them coming back time and again.

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On most nights, you find this very simple and quaint restaurant filled with locals and college kids who can’t get enough of the garlic chicken.  Simple decor, simple furniture, wholesome goodness and great, low prices, and, of course, the awesome country Cuban food has everyone hooked.  Even during the week, when my husband and I went, almost all of the tables were full.

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First off, every table is served a basket of simple garlic bread.  Or, at least, you think it’s just simple garlic bread.  But somehow, when you take a bite, this isn’t just simple garlic bread.  Something about their garlic butter that they rub onto lightly toasted and sliced French bread is so strong and potent, yet never overpowering.  This garlic bread is addictive, and before you know it, the bread basket at your table is now empty.

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My husband and I decided to start out our meal by splitting a small appetizer of croquetas de jamon, or better known as ham croquettes.  The croquettes were nice and golden brown and crispy on the outside, and piping hot and chock full of minced ham on the inside.  This was tasty finger food that gives you a bit of a sample of what’s to come.

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For my meal, I opted for the combinacion de pollo y Puerco, or essentially the combination of chicken and pork.  Made with a half portion of roast chicken and roast pork topped with onions, the chicken and pork are then drenched in Versailles famous garlic sauce.  Every dish is served with steamed white rice and a small side of pan fried plantains.  The roasted pork is classic Cuban style roasted pork that’s been marinated in Versailles signature garlic mojo criollo sauce.  It comes out of the oven tender and juicy and full of flavor.  It’s the Cuban version of Mexican carnitas.  The chicken, well the chicken is Versailles signature item.  The combination of the pork and the chicken with the side of rice is fantastic as the flavors all come together due to the use of the special garlic sauce.  That garlic sauce is like MSG, it just keeps you coming back for more.  The sliced garlic helps to add a bit of a kick to cut through some of the sweetness from the garlic sauce.  And those fried plantains, they are just awesome.  A little more hearty and starchy than a regular banana, they have a slight hint of sweetness to them that comes out from the caramelization achieved during pan frying this fruit.  This dish is just so awesome that words don’t do it justice.

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My husband, for his meal, ordered Versailles’ signature dish, the famoso pollo Versailles.  This dish consists of a Versailles famous garlic chicken – the dish that put this restaurant on the map.  The chicken is a juicy, half chicken marinated in Versailles’ delicious garlic sauce and garnished with sliced onions.  On the side, you get a bowl of steamed white rice, and of course, the pan fried plantains.  The preparation of the chicken injects so much flavor into the meat.  The chicken meat just falls right off the bone and is so juicy its hard to remember that you’re eating roasted chicken.  My husband didn’t need to tell me how good his chicken was since I also had the same chicken on my plate.  Trust me, this chicken is something you have to try for yourself to understand just how awesome it is.  If you are a garlic lover, this special garlic sauce will have you falling to your knees.

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At the end of the meal, my husband and I decided to share a dessert just because the dessert was churros and we both love a good churro.  In this case, it was an order of churros served with coconut ice cream and the whole thing was drizzled with hot caramel sauce.  If you’re not sure what a churro is, it’s pretty much dough that’s cranked out in a long cylindrical shape and deep fried before being rolled in a cinnamon sugar mixture.  When cooked correctly, the churro is crispy on the outside and hot and a little fluffy on the inside and the cinnamon sugar-coating gives the deep fried dough a hint of sweetness and heat it from the cinnamon. Combine that with some hot caramel sauce and cold coconut ice cream covered this hot caramel sauce, its like heaven in a dessert.  A light, sweet, and tasty dessert to end our amazing meal.

Versailles is truly a hidden gem of a restaurant with the most amazing down home Cuban food.  It’s no wonder that this family-owned restaurant has been a staple in its West LA neighborhood for so many decades.  Versailles serves the kind of food that you just can’t get enough of with their intoxicating combination of classic Cuban preparation and their unique secret garlic sauce.  My husband has really become a lover of Versailles and its obvious that his office has as well as they’ve had their last few office lunch outings at Versailles over the past couple of months.  Now that I’ve re-discovered how amazing Versailles’ garlic chicken is, I’m sure that it won’t be long before I find myself in a seat at the restaurant again.  You just can’t get enough of Versailles’ garlic chicken.

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