Chix, and garlix, and tails from an ox

There is something unnatural about running the car air conditioner on Christmas Eve, but it had to be done. A bank thermometer read 81 degrees in the Valley today and I still didn’t get my chili burger on. I picked up a friend who was in town from the east coast and who politely exclaimed that he never craves a Tommy burger so we agreed on another old haunt – Versailles. The minute we walked into the Cuban eatery, the garlic wafted through my body and reminded me how much I missed this joint. A 1/2 chicken soaking in a mouthwatering garlic citrus sauce, a side of fried plantains and two dishes I’ve not had before – ox tail stew and steamed yucca, both of which I found absolutely delicious. Ox tail had always scared me…visions of gnawing on a seemingly thin bone reminded me of being in an old Chinese restaurant, disdainfully watching people hunchbacked and guarded (as if to keep their food all to themselves), picking and sucking off what little meat is on chicken feet. In reality, the ox tail is thicker, and more like a wonderfully tender beef short rib where the meat slides effortlessly off the bone. No gnawing required. The yucca, which looked like long strips of turnip, turned out to be more like a slightly sweet but fibrous potato. “This is something I actually crave,” my friend said to me while taking a forkful to his mouth. No doubt – he is a veteran of the great Cuban restaurants that are to be had in New York City.

At the end of the meal, I was desperate for a dinner mint. No, I needed something more curiously strong. But to no avail. I decided everyone within my personal space will have to suffer while I bask in the glow of finding two more new dishes I’ve never had before, and found loving.

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