My favorite entrée by far was the lamb shank braised with tomatoes, rosemary, and sherry ($12.95). It was succulent, ever so tender, and deeply flavorful. The ropa vieja ($9.95), a shredded beef dish very similar to the lamb, was nearly as good, though even more humble, spread as it was like a stew over rice. A rib-eye steak marinated in citrus and port ($15.95) was strongly flavored and good, but the meat was rather tough. The traditional puerco asado ($9.95), a marinated roast pork dish, is also excellent.

Less thrilling are options like the Arroz con Calamares ($9.95)--simply a scant handful of squid rings on a mountain of saffron rice--and the scallops in tomato-sherry sauce ($13.95), which were overcooked and stewy. But my least favorite dish might well have been the Camarones Enchilados, shrimp in a goopy red sauce. In fact, the seafood was so miss-or-miss it seemed more appropriate to landlocked Minnesota than to sea-cradled Cuba. The marinated tuna steak ($12.95) was dry on one visit and fine on another, and the plantain-breaded red snapper surprised me because it was deep-fried in a thick sugary shell: It may have been too sweet for my taste, but that same fact will make it perfect for many people.

The homemade desserts are surprisingly unpretentious for a spot where you'd expect gold-plated rococo edifices. My favorite is the tres leches ($4.25), a condensed-milk-drenched white cake dripping with a silky boiled icing. Though almost candy-sweet, the cake is absolutely delicious, and I watched several people who swore they were stuffed beyond all hope linger long enough to scrape the last crumbs off their plates. The apple cake ($4.50) is a humble square of moist brown-sugar-iced plain pastry, and it is also impossible to stop eating; the key lime pie ($4.50) is more like a key-lime cheesecake, and I particularly appreciate its lumpy, homemade graham-cracker crust. Homey and humble as they are, these desserts create a lovely feeling that in the middle of all the flair and style beats a loving grandmother's heart. It's a feeling that's more real than any trend, and maybe that's one of the reasons trend-wary Minnesotans have embraced this hot spot so thoroughly. In any event, I suspect that once the zeitgeist moves on from cigars to the next big thing--steam baths? mahjong? soup? orchid cultivation?--the crowds will keep coming for the cake.

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