We could not say the same about the paella. The dish had a great smoky flavor, from the chorizo and perhaps some smoked paprika, but the ingredients had been allowed to cook too long. As a result the rice had gone a bit gummy, and the chicken dry. Relatively unaffected were the tender pieces of lobster and juicy Maine shrimp. A dessert of chocolate ganache with a rum mousse was fine but not terrific. There was a bit of spice in the cake, but slices of candied jalapeno on top offered a searing heat.

While we did not leave Havana South raving about the dishes, beyond the lamb entrée, we nonetheless liked the place. Though things are not quite perfect, the spirit of the restaurant is right and you get the sense they take their food seriously and are going to work out the details. But as Obama is learning, patience can wear thin when there is a lot of money involved, and with most entrees over $25, Havana should keep that in mind. In the meantime, go with the existing strengths: hear the band on a Wednesday, be sure to chat with Ezra, and try the lamb.

Brian Duff can be reached atbduff@une.edu.

HAVANA SOUTH | 44 Wharf St, Portland | Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10 pm; Sat-Sun 9 am-10 pm; bar open late | Visa/MC/Amex | 207.772.9988

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