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You'll have the time of your life at Mario's busy, happy Cuban/Spanish restaurant, but don't fool around: Make a reservation. You don't want to have to wait a second longer than necessary for that steaming, ground-beef empanada, a hefty corn-scented tamal, or a feather-light ham croquette. The crowd here is lively; tropical flavors redolent of garlic, grilled onion, and pepper are designed to snap you out of any stupor. Red snapper rolled in ground plantain and topped with a handful of fresh shrimp; an Argentine-style skirt steak; and seafood-stuffed paella for one are all standouts -- but the menu doesn't put a foot wrong. And the staff at this Fort Lauderdale spot is as sweet as the grilled plantains, as the cuatro leches cake, as the tiny cup of Cuban coffee that ends every meal.
Mario’s Catalina Restaurant
When we are celebrating something, we like to go out to a more upscale restaurant, as many of us do I am sure. We got double happy, as this time a very generous friend of ours gifted us a voucher to a fancy place, called Mario’s Catalina restaurant. We were looking forward to our evening out, as we have not been there before and as the voucher came from a good friend, we were sure, we will be in for a treat!
We arrive at 8 pm to the above mentioned restaurant, where I have reserved our table a few days prior. After a few minutes standing in the doorway, we are greeted by a server, to whom I explain that we have reserved a table. He guides us thru the dim lit restaurants, with nicely set tables; table cloth, plates, silverware, glasses, all very nice. As they did NOT have a table for us reserved, he suggests, we take a seat, maybe by the bar at a small table, as all their other tables’ seat more than just two.
We are seated and being told about the specials and we ask for some time to decide on what to drink. We thoroughly investigate the menu and decide on both drinks and food. While we wait to place our order, we get served some water and plantains. We even joke about, how nice it is to have a slow service now and then, compared to all the rush in our normal outings – we hate it when we are barely finished with appetizer, the main course is already on the table.
This time however, we are waiting to place our order for 25 minutes. There are several servers and the bar maid passing us by every minute, but nobody notices, that we are even there. Finally I catch one of them and as I would like to order, I find out, she doesn’t speak English. Soon after we are able to proceed.
As we wait, I have the chance to look around and I notice some very interesting traits in the “upscale” looking place. The restroom door (which we are seated right across of) sticks out like a sore thumb from the whole of the nicely lit and set restaurant. It looks cheap with its plain white door and 50 cent restroom sign. The ladies restroom was behind the bar, and it was equipped to be a disabled facility as well. Coming out, I had to notice, if I were in a wheelchair, I first would have to ask the staff to clear out the hallway of chairs etc in order for me to get in-out. Next to this, there is a flat screen tv with some Spanish soap opera going on it… The barmaid’s son, just arrived and is doing his homework sitting right next to us at the bar. He starts selling candy from a box to the employees of the restaurant while we are waiting/eating our food.
Food… Well, for the amount of almost $40/plate we were expecting a little more… Noooo Not more food, as there was tons of food on the plates… We were expecting quality and presentation. We got some very simple Cuban food (there is nothing wrong with simple Cuban food, if you are in Cuban place and getting your plate for 6,99). It was served just as you would expect it from one of those places, where you pay 6.99 for it too…. But our plates were about $40/each. All together this little outing was costing over $150 for the 2 of us, for which amount woe could have had an 8 course tasting of a master chef with 8 different whiskeys paired to them all.
And the very best… The staff was cleaning the glasses, that are set on the tables for water and or wine wit4 409 cleaning spray. We paid to be toxicated.
Please if you are charging these amounts of money for the experience of Cuban dining, do deliver the quality both in your cuisine, the service, the sanity and the environment as well… We for sure won’t visit you again!
Beware of this place and Mario. Became here by the recommendation of our hotel. We got there on a Friday and it was empty. I liked the new Rolls Royce parked near the door and now know it's Marios. He can afford it since he scams and rips people off. He tells you he will cook for you and takes the menus. He then kisses each one of us. Brings out the appetizer, three main dishes, three deserts and one coffee. We didn't get any alcohol because we had drinks before hand. Thank God we did. I read 40.00 for two glasses of sangria. Our dinner came to 240.00 for two adults and two kids. I think the kisses were free. Check out the reviews on trip advisor on this crook. Food was ok but we have had better in Miami at Vasilles for 1/8 the price.
Enough that Mario serves you the sourest, strongest mojitos, the most melting skirt steaks doused with citrusy, peppery mojo, and the sweetest, stickiest plantains you've ever tasted. Enough that he has kept pouring the wine, carting out the grilled shrimp and tamales and ham croquettes and shredded pork and red snapper and cuatro leches and coffee until you feel like you've been simultaneously petted, spoon-fed, and serenaded for an entire two hours by the handsome contingent of servers and... More »
When you call Catalina Restaurant on Saturday afternoon to make a dinner reservation, Mario Flores might say something like, "Oh honey, you don't need no reservation tonight. You come on down, Mario will find a table for you." But I urge you, be... More »
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