Any meal that starts with mojitos and ends with flan can’t be too bad. In fact, dining on the back patio of Maria Manso World Cuisine last weekend in my town of San Rafael, CA was an ecletic culinary experience. Maria’s Mom is Cuban. Her Dad is Italian. And her menu is a United Nations tour of Mediterranean, Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern and beyond – in an elegantly casual setting, with warm, professional service at remarkably reasonable prices.
Maria is an extrovert who visits the tables and schmoozes with the guests. She grew up in Havana at her mother’s side, cooking for her family of of nine. After an apprenticeship in Miami, she awakened San Francisco’s palates to the culinary crossover of Asia and Cuba at the Clift Hotel’s showpiece, Asia de Cuba. Now, she’s fulfilled her dream of owning her own restaurant.
Our party dined on a huge Grilled Cowboy Steak with corn and shitake mushroom succotash, Napa Valley Merlot sauce, roasted garlic and crispy shallots; succulent pan seared California White Sea Bass with a nori nishiki rice roll and wasabi beurre blanc, and Chimichurri Skirt Steak and Grilled Prawns with boniato mash, Argentinean herb and garlic sauce. We shared a huge plate of sauteed spinach. After enjoying every bite of our entrees, we topped it off with her signature dessert, a silky Traditional Cuban Flan infused with Caramel and Vanilla.
Maria Manso World Cuisine, 1613 Fourth Street, San Rafael Ca. 94901. For reservations, call (415) 453-7877. For more info, visit www.MariaManso.com.