I had been hearing about Conflict Kitchen for quite a while before I actually made it there. It was previously located in my least favorite part of East Liberty, (looking at you, stupid Penn Circle) where I do not go unless Keith is driving (parking). They have since moved to Schenley Plaza in Oakland. One of my classes this semester is in the Frick Fine Arts Building which is toward the entrance of Schenley Park. I usually park in the same spot on campus, so walking to class leads me through Schenley Plaza. The 2nd or 3rd week of class I happened to notice a sandwich board for Conflict Kitchen at the edge of the plaza. Up to that point, I hadn’t realized they had moved, but had already eaten dinner. I decided I’d head there next week and check it out.
So last Monday came and I went. This iteration of Conflict Kitchen serves Cuban food. I’ve never had real Cuban food before, but I’ve made a few things at home (ropa vieja and picadillo). Mine is probably terribly inauthentic but since I enjoyed it, I figured I’d like theirs even more.
Their menu is pretty limited, which I think is a pretty good idea. With a rotating theme, select a few dishes and focus on them, rather than trying to recreate a whole restaurant. For my first experience, I went with the ropa vieja (translation = old clothes). I’ve actually only ever had chicken ropa vieja, but this is beef. I also decided to try the tostones (twice fried plantains with mojo (lemon/garlic) sauce). They informed me that they were out of tostones but could offer me maduros (which are apparently once fried with no sauce?).
All entrees are served with congri (rice/beans) and ensalada Cubana (shredded cabbage, carrots, cucumber and tomato with a very light garlicy/lemony dressing).
The ropa vieja was very good, though the meat was a little on the tough side. The congri was great and I really loved the ensalada. I ended up mixing it all together and it was really good that way. I only ate a few pieces of the plantains because it was just too much food. I wish they had come with a sauce (maybe they just forgot it?) Overall, I was a fan. It was about 9$ for everything, so not super cheap but not expensive.
I decided to go back again to try something else so this Monday I got Lenchon Asada which is slow roasted pork. I skipped the plaintains as well.
I again mixed it all up into a delicious pile. The pork was melt in your mouth tender though it didn’t have as much flavor as the ropa vieja. It was good, but just didn’t blow me away.
Cuban food apparently isn’t spicy at all, which disappointed me a little. They had a big bottle of hot sauce on the counter but since I am a hot sauce snob, I didn’t use it because I was afraid I would ruin it. I think some Tapatio would have vastly improved the lenchon. The ropa vieja had a great flavor but still could have stood a little heat.
Not sure how long they will have Cuban food, I believe Korean will be next and I’m looking forward to trying that. If you’re in Oakland and need a quick lunch/dinner, check them out. The have a great concept and the food is pretty good as well! I’d probably go back for just the congri.