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Celebrating Abuelo's 90th Birthday at Casa Juancho, Miami

(arroz con leche)

I was in Miami on Christmas day celebrating my paternal grandfather’s 90th birthday. While a bit sad about not being in DC for the actual day with the rest of my family, it was a tremendous blessing and irreplaceable sentiment to be able to travel South and toast to his 9th decade.

It was a beautiful thing, really. A host of friends, most of the family and lots of church supporters came out to share joy, appreciation and demonstrate their love by performing a contata of many of the songs he’s composed over the years.

After church service on Saturday, which was followed by a quaint reception, the old lad was exhausted from pure adrenaline and being overwhelmed from the days’ activities. Hell, even I was tired after prancing around all day in my 5″ stilettos. And they were open toe, so you know I was happy (just for the day, because a warm Christmas just isn’t right!).

My grandfather’s birthday is on the 25th, so most of the celebration, as least spiritual and thanksgiving themed, was on Saturday. So, on Sunday, my aunt, dad and uncle planned a really nice and intimate luncheon for him to enjoy. We ended up at what I understand to be a quentessential Spanish restaurant not too far from my grandparent’s home, in the heart of Little Havana.

I don’t like to question someone’s restaurant selection and in fact this was pretty nice, notwithstanding the superbly failed presentation and plating. Not to mention the abominable traditional Spanish and Latin desserts.

This act of culinary mishap is what brings me to talk today.

I will start with accolades deservingly given to Casa Juancho, a formidable host to our party of 20. The décor of the Mediterranean spot was in line with what you’d see in that region, while the servers were clad in cultural, yet typical wear and were very friendly. Our banquet-sized table was nicely dressed with pre-fixed menu’s and plenty of wine glasses lacing every place setting.

When I browsed the menu, my eyes went straight for the dessert. I realized I have a subconcious ability to see the word “flan” from any distance. It was one of the offerings among arroz con leche, one of my fave desserts and crema Catalana, a pudding of sorts with caramelized sugar, much like the way crème brûlée is torched.  I opted for the former to enjoy after the main entrée.

And the flan. Because I had to taste and compare.

While we all waited for our main course, we  enjoyed a simple green salad with a honey vinaigrette dressing and a mediocore and slightly watered down glass of sangria. You’d think a Spanish restaurant would exceed all measure to make a luscious and well-balanced fruity wine. But, they didn’t.  It was drinkable, but not the best.

Do you see the ice?


What we all thoroughly raved about was the garlic butter. So good, I was tempted to ask our server for a little box to take home. Not that I can’t make some myself, but I was in Miami and cooking was the last thing on my mind. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of butter (I know, I know, I know!) but this *ish was great… a hint of chives made it pop. It was everything you want butter to be: smooth, creamy, tasty, flavorful  and fabulously hand-whipped.

I think Julia Child would be impressed.

(garlic & chive butter)

For my main dish, I had salmon with mushroom sauce. Another pretty good option. The filet was cooked to perfection and  was  generous in size. A spinach au gratin was served on the side along with the most unattractive and bland potatoes, ever. I took a picture of the plate, but it was so poorly and distastefully plated, it didn’t deserve to occupy real estate here.

I continued to devour Cuban bread lathered in garlic butter.

This is where it all went down-hill.


(box flan?)

I’m convinced the flan came straight out of those Goya make at home boxes, which should never, ever be allowed or made! The color was a perfect canary yellow and had no imperfections. I know the one I made for Robuchon was perfect in texture both in and out, but it wasn’t yellow, rather cream and cognac as it should be!  Check it out here.

I moved on from the flan in hopes of gasping over rice pudding. How could something so fabulous go so wrong, my friends? The clay pot it was served in looked better than the dessert itself! For starters the rice was undercooked. The leche was thin to the point it was runny and lastly, was so messy the stuff was apparently just scooped and slapped into the dish–thus splattered all on the rim of the bottom dish. I had to send it back.  See the first picture of this post. And see my arroz con leche, here.

But, they found redemption in the crema Catalana. My mom makes the best pudding hands down, so it’s hardly fair to make a comparison, but considering everything else in the pastry department miserably failed, the creamy pudding was good. Though I was concerned the color was just as yellow as the flan, the texture and flavor was good. The caramelized sugar gave it a good bite. However, it wasn’t 100% perfect. The layer of sugar was so thick not even the torch was able to get to the bottom of it.

One teaspoon would have sufficed.

(crema Catalana)

[I will say the Cuban espresso was probably the best thing I had. Is that a good thing? I mean, don’t we all make a good espresso at home? It was sweetened so delightfully that it almost erased the disappointment of dessert. I had it with the crema Catalana and was happy.]

My issue with the whole place was with how everything was served. A hot mess, starting with the salad, which was spotty  and looked dirty in some areas. I overlooked that because I was hungry, yet still a totally unacceptable for a place donning a reputable history.

Moreover, the desserts placed in the open area near the entrance were neatly situated and exhibited some line cook passing a damp cloth around the rim to ensure they looked clean! All that did was add insult to our experience.

(desserts at station near entrance. nothing like what we were served!)

Ultimately, it was all about my grandfather having a great time and celebrating 90 beautiful years! I’ve learned a lot from that little Jamaican man. We laughed, kissed him, gifted him, took hundreds of pictures (because being Cuban means everything has to be duplicated!) and even joked about the food!

(L to R: my dad, my aunt, my uncle, my grandmother and granddad)

It was a lovely day with wonderful memories created. Food was just a secondary factor.

Christmas in D.C. is next!


Tel: (305) 642-2452 | W: casajuancho.com

2436 Southwest 8th St,  Miami, FL 33135

Appetizers: $11-$40

Dinner: $24-$36

Drinks: $10-$22

[rating: 2.5/5]

Casa Juancho on Urbanspoon

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49 thoughts on “Celebrating Abuelo's 90th Birthday at Casa Juancho, Miami

  1. A lovely dinner! Yes, that flan looks far too yellow and perfect… I’ve seen a documentary on TV about restaurants offering ready-made food. So sad and there are many of them around the globe.



  2. Oh. Bren, I’m sorry I laughed thru that review. I know what it is like to be horribly deflated in your expectations in Restaurant foods. Especially when you are somewhere that should know better.
    O course it would be hard for the Queen of Flan to find something satisfactory, but lord, from the look of the foto it def was goya from the box.
    At least everything was pretty and reasonably presented. And, the family was able to be together, that is the important part.
    I had an Aunt who baked pies for a living, she died at 93 trying to find a pie that compared to hers. lol Sometimes we have to lower our expectations, when we’re not at home.

  3. Yeah, Casa Juancho is a grand old dame, un poco pasado, and definitely retro in its menu options and service. It’s a mecca for old timers and tourists. It’s less about the food these days and more about the history and ambient decor. The one thing I like about the place is live music in the bar and choripan (which I know you don’t like).

    But your photos make it look 5*!!

  4. That is one honest review Bren! Cracking me up with the line about the real estate.
    The photo of your family is priceless.
    Wishing you a fabulous new year, my friend!
    Here’s to a delicious 2011!

  5. Your grandpa is jamiacan? didn’t know that..well hot damn!!! knew u had a little yardie in ya. Scathing..they didn’t know u were coming before deciding to serve box flan to the flan diva..how dare they :-)He’s 90- you were there -Does it really get any better….have a good one mums.

  6. Nice pic of your grandparents,uncle,aunt and dad. To bad about the food at the restaurant. Especially the flan! That is surprising for Miami. They need to step it up! Glad you had a good time anyway. Happy New Year!!

  7. Rosa: It’s too bad that restaurants are doing that so frequently. What’s the point, really. I mean for $7USD, they should be making each option from scratch.

    Sue EP: Thanks for reading the post and enjoying it! It’s quite disappointing going to a popular restaurant and their staple dessert not being what it should be. I’ve never dared purchased a Goya flan so I just don’t know the hype behind them… The ONLY things that were plated halfway decent were the desserts… like i said, the actual entrees weren’t worthy of occupying space here.

    JoanNova: I guess, girl. I’d go again but with lower expectations. I did enjoy and appreciate the ambiance. Very friendly and laid back.

    Lori Lynn: 😉 Thanks for reading it. You know real estate on our blogs are premium! I pray you bring in the new year in a super fabulous and delicious way! Hugs.

    Chef Irie: Yes! When we left Cuba we went to Jamaica and stayed with family before we finally made it to the US!

    Dullah: Thanks! It was so lovely and so special. He looks great and was more than content… and yeah, the flan was a hot mess. Happy New Year to you, too!

  8. Agreed….definately, as far as the food the Cuban espresso was the best thing….I have seen Casa Juancho have better days for sure. We celebrated Mami’s 80th and Mami & Papi’s 60th wedding anniversary there and the food and presentation were better..The occasion and the company was awesome..being my father’s 90th birthday, that’s what mattered most….

  9. Great review, sorry that it was such a disappointment. I agree though that the celebration for your grandfather is what was most important, sounds like he had a lovely birthday 🙂
    Wishing you and your loved ones a fantastic New Year!

  10. I really enjoyed reading this article! Someone like me can always appreciate an honest review. I’m also hoping the food community will nominate you for an Emmy soon! Your doing the foodie community a huge favor – saving us money & time wasted in a tough economy!
    But mostly Bren, what a gift to share such an important milestone in your grandfathers life!
    Thanks for sharing it with us!

  11. Nothing beats home cooking but you’re right Bren presentation is everything! I’m no expert on flan but there’s something to be said for the imperfections of home/hand made food.

  12. Thanks, flaca; it may be the sentimental side of it, but to me, this is one of the best posts/resto reviews you have shared. Yes, it was all about papi, and I’m sure he had agreat time. But then again, i’ll have to agree with you that while the food, all in all, was fine, the plating left much to be desired, not to mention some of the service.
    Where I disagree with you is on the Crema Catalana: you know I know my cremas and creme brulees (remember the hot water you guys got me in with your mother in Paris?) This Crema Catalana, while a lot better than the Arroz con Leche, was nothing to write home about. So, yes, the whole experience was good, but Casa Juancho could and should do a lot better.

  13. Oh! What a nice celebration…the food sure look excellent and so nice presented 🙂 The photo of you family is just so touching…

  14. Merari: the espresso was really fave thing, which is sad to say. perhaps b/c it was the last thing i had and it hit the spot. it was just so great to be a part of that.

    Tickled Red: girl, the flan may *look* good but it was awful!

    Magic of Spice: yeah, i’m sorry, too, but hey, not every outing can can be so fabulous, right. like i said, the ambiance was nice and perfect for family gatherings.

    Pieces of Anarnia: thnanks woman. I’m glad you continue to come back and read what i ran about. you’re always soo kind! much appreciated.

    Dinean: nothing ever beats home cooking, but when i go out, i do like to see a halfway decent plated dish. this was just out right messy!

    David: thank YOU! it was wonderful, wasn’t it! he was sooo happy which made everything that much more special. i haven’t had Crema Catalana in years so the best of my recollection, this one was okay. Of all the other options, it def. did it’s job in taking care of the sweet tooth.

    Eliana: muy precioso!

    Juliana: thanks, Juliana. It really was. fam is all we have and i’m thankful for it!

  15. Bren,

    In spite of it all (food) that is, it looks like you had a very memorable moment. Such a beautiful picture of your family. You all have great genes!!!! Seriously!!! I’m so jealous. Yes, the pic of the Espresso looked great…glad you were able to enjoy that at least. I’m still needing to try that Espresso you told me about a few months ago. One of my many goals-resolutions to do/try…ha!

    Great piece!!

    Keep doing what you do….love your blog!!!


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