Versailles is one of L.A.’s most well-known Cuban restaurants. My husband and I have been eating at Versailles off and on for years. The original restaurant was opened in 1981 in West Los Angeles which we frequented during its early days and since then has grown now to five restaurants. Lucky for us, one of its restaurants is located in the San Fernando Valley where we moved to in 1991. They eventually added a secondary location here in the Valley at Universal City’s popular tourist magnet, Universal Citywalk however, if you are a local and don’t want to deal with the crowds, the Encino location is your best bet.
Parking is adequate and you can also find street parking around the surrounding neighborhoods. When you walk in, you are greeted by one of the waiters dressed in the white Cuban guayaberas and dark slacks. The dining room was busy; the bar not so much. Compared to the bar which was dark except for the television that was showing a soccer game, the dining room was bright and lively, painted in a warm palette of reddish orange and mustard yellows. It’s a casual, nondescript space and there were large families, couples and friends enjoying Versailles’ Cuban cuisine. The place is always packed during lunch and dinner; not only because of their savory menu but because of their hearty generous portions and their unbelievably low prices!
All orders come with a generous basket of buttery garlic bread slices and you can see bits of roasted garlic on each slice. They can be so unbelievably addicting and I try not to have more than one so that I can enjoy my meal. The menu boasts dishes such as roast chicken (their most popular and signature dish is their Versailles Garlic Chicken, a roasted half chicken marinated in their famous garlic-citrus sauce and smothered in white onions), roast pork, shredded beef, beef tongue, ox tail, and halibut. Almost all dishes are served with black beans and rice as well as fried sweet plantains to enjoy with your entree.
On this particular evening, I decided to order something different. While the garlic chicken is their most popular item, I, like a creature of habit, always order the Arroz con Pollo, a classic Cuban dish prepared with Valencia rice, seasoned tender, falling off-the-bone chicken, peas and pimentos, all served in a large bowl. It’s comfort food at best and my absolute favorite. But I decided to try the Versailles Garlic Chicken this time out. I love garlic and onions so I thought I’d give it a try. The dish was served in a large, dinner sized platter. If you’re expecting your dinner to be plated perfectly with some type of garnish for color, you can forget about it. It’s as if I was being served dinner at home. I took a bit of the chicken and was taken aback by the tangy-ness of the dish. I was expecting more garlic flavor. It was almost vinegary to me. I know their mojo (garlic) sauce is what they are known for but to me, it was too citrus-y. I ate the pieces of chicken that were not immersed with the sauce, pairing it with the black beans and rice to cut through the tang of the dish. It was okay and I made a valiant effort to at least eat half the dish.
My husband ordered his usual Ropa Vieja, a traditional Cuban dish. Translated as “old clothes”, this thinly shredded flank steak is smothered in a tomato-wine sauce. Strangely enough, Versailles is usually on point with this dish but tonight, the meat was a bit tough. He still managed to finish it anyway!
I’m sure I’ll be encouraged to try other dishes on their menu but for now, I am content to stick with what I know and love…the Arroz con Pollo. Don’t let my palate determine whether or not you should experience Versailles. I’m sure you’ll find something on their vast menu to enjoy. Just come hungry!
17410 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, CA 91316