In the background, calm Latin music is played, vintage cars projected on the walls drive past through the streets of Habana Vieja, people sit at the tables chatting with each other, sipping a mojito, while their Cuban meal is served. This is what Luis “Mocito” Salazar Tavera had in mind with his piece of Cuba on the Nieuwezijds Kolk. Club Akhnaton in the heart of Amsterdam is transformed into a Cuban restaurant on a number of Wednesday evenings in July and August, the only one in Amsterdam and (far) surroundings. The club is a historic venue: not only were the city’s first salsa parties held here in the 1970s, it is also where Luis’ salsa school, Mocitos Dance School, opened its doors on January 6, 2019. And where Comida con Salsa has been taking place since July 2020.
Last September, Luis started this concept, which combines an introduction to traditional Cuban-Creole cuisine with an introductory workshop Cuban Salsa. In the meantime, the concept has developed further and people can also sit down for dinner during Comida con Salsa, in addition to introduction workshops Cuban Salsa, workshops will also be organized for (more) experienced dancers and you can also book the concept for a -) event or festival. For example, Luis will provide the welcome meal and a dance workshop on Friday, August 21, during the Improve Your Skills DANCE CAMP, which takes place from August 21 to 23 at the Natuur Kollumeroord campsite in Friesland. But how did the idea for Comida con Salsa actually come about?
“Besides a great passion for dancing, I also have a great passion for cooking,” says Luis. “That is why I did a cookery training in the Netherlands in 2005 and after that I worked as a (chef) cook in the Cuban restaurant Buena Vista Dinner Club in Zeist, and Tapasbar Vengo, Sal Gorda and Sofitel The Grand in Amsterdam. I specialize in French cuisine, but my second great kitchen love is really the cocina criolla, which in Cuba is a mix of Spanish and African influences. The great thing about this kitchen is how you can prepare the most delicious meals with a few simple ingredients. In Cuba it is often improvised with regard to the ingredients and you cook with what you can get that day. My grandmother and my aunt grandmother were masters of this. As a little boy I always watched when they were busy with large pans on the fire. The kitchen was really their domain, not a hair on your head thinking of entering it. ‘
It is therefore not surprising that Luis, as a professional dancer and dance teacher, also dives into the kitchen. ‘I’ve had the dream of combining both passions for some time. This opportunity arose last September when we could do Comida con Salsa in Somebody Else’s House in De Pijp. The Dutch usually do not know Cuban cuisine and in this way I offer them a first introduction to it. Or they do know the kitchen, because they have already been to Cuba, and are very happy that they can now also eat a nice spicy ropa vieja in the Netherlands. The nice thing about combining salsa lessons with a Cuban dinner is that it really is a night out, and an accessible way to try out whether Cuban Salsa is something for you – or for your partner. ‘
A typical Cuban-Creole meal usually consists of meat or fish, rice – frito (fried) or congri (cooked with stock and black beans) – yuca (cassava) or fried banana, and salad. The kitchen also excels in its simplicity in terms of the use of herbs: garlic, salt, pepper, onion and lemon. My grandma and aunt grandma had a few more secret ingredients that they added to specific dishes. Such as in the tomato sauce of the pollo frito, which is standard on the menu of Comida con Salsa every edition. What secret ingredients that are? I’m not going to reveal that here, haha. Come and have a taste for yourself! ‘
- Cuban meal and (introduction) workshop Salsa: € 27.50, including welcome cocktail (mojito or Cuba libre).
- Cuban meal only (reservation required):
- Ratatui de Moso (vegetarian ratatouille, also vegan on request): € 10
- Pollo frito (spicy chicken drumsticks): € 11.50
- Ropa vieja (beef stew): 13.50
- Salmon frito (grilled salmon): € 13.50
- All menus are served with yuca (cassava) and / or rice, and salad.
- 29 july
- 12 august
- 26 august
- From September 2020, Comida con Salsa will take place once a month in Club Akhnaton (dates to be announced).