Rosa Blanca - Jose Garces' Cuban diner - opens Monday morning, Dec. 16 at 707 Chestnut St., the former site of his Chifa.
Garces is executing several different experiences at Rosa Blanca: diner, takeout shop, rum bar, and sit-down restaurant with dishes from chef Yun Fuentes, last at JG Domestic.
First off, hours are 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday and 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, so there will be breakfast in a part of town that's short on options.
You walk into what appears to be a regulation diner straight out of South Florida or possibly Cuba. Creme Design has called for a curved, stainless-steel-rimmed linoleum counter, coral pink and aqua-accented walls, and lazily spinning metal-encased ceiling fans (a holdover from Chifa) up front. Booths topped with ersatz shutters are across the way.
At the front door are a counter and a small kitchen setup where coffee, pastries, fresh fruit shakes, pasteles, tortas and such are available for takeout off a chalkboard menu.
Toward the far side of the counter, the mood will morph into that of rum bar, complete with sugar cane press.
Garces told me Rosa Blanca's bar will stock 70 varieties of rum because "rum is the new whiskey," he said.
Rosa Blanca's rear dining room is more traditional. Just as was the setup at Chifa, booths line the walls. The downstairs will accommodate dining as well as paladar-style private dining.
Garces cautioned that the dining rooms were not fully decorated. You know how Garces has a wall of bright-colored Mexican wrestling masks at Distrito? Get ready for a wall of fedoras at Rosa Blanca.
Fuentes, meanwhile, is having a blast in the kitchen.
The Puerto Rico-bred chef started in the Garces orbit at Amada and worked at Tinto and Village Whiskey before taking over as chef de cuisine at JG Domestic. At Rosa Blanca, he is now getting a chance to cook in the Caribbean style.
There are salads, small plates, sandwiches, entrees (vaca frita, pernil asado, etc.) and nightly dishes served family style, such as a tender arroz con pollo and a mighty soulful mondongo that Fuentes cooked for us.
Here's the menu; most prices are under $20. Some breakfast items will be available all day.