New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Hispanic Heritage Month: La Dinastia is keeping Chinese Cuban cuisine alive

Head uptown for some of the best multicultural cuisine with a rich taste and even richer history.
The+interior+of+the+restaurant.+There+are+light+brown+tables+and+dark+brown+chairs%2C+as+well+as+gray+booths.+There+are+customers+sitting+and+eating.
Imani Gomez
La Dinastia, located on W. 72nd St., serves Chino-Latino cuisine. (Imani Gomez for WSN)

The East Village may be home to a number of Latin fusion restaurants, but La Dinastia located on West 72nd Street serves up classic Chinese and Cuban dishes on the same menu. One of the few remaining original Chinese Cuban restaurants in New York City, La Dinastia is keeping the cuisine and its history alive.

“It means a lot to spread the knowledge and to spread awareness of our cuisine and our culture, because the younger generation kids don’t know too much about it, because it’s not really out there,” Richard Lam, one of the owners of La Dinastia, said.

A man in a black t-shirt is standing and smiling, posing inside the restaurant.
Richard Lam, owner of La Dinastia. (Imani Gomez for WSN)

In 1986, Lam’s father opened the restaurant with his business partner Michael Lan after immigrating from Peru and working at other Chino Latino restaurants around the city. According to Lam, Chino Latino restaurants largely came about after the Cuban Revolution as many Cubans, including Cuba’s Chinese immigrants, fled to cities in the United States and began opening up restaurants. 

La Dinastia had previously been a Cuban restaurant called La Principe; in order to keep the previous restaurant’s Cuban customer base, Lam’s father decided to serve both Chinese and Cuban dishes on the menu.

“The curation came from the customers, because the customers wanted their Cuban food with their Chinese fried rice, giving the first-generation owners — Chinese owners — the idea of just putting them together and serving it to them together,” Lam said.

Today, the menu reflects the same taste of the customers that visited La Dinastia when it first opened. Instead of blending specific ingredients or culinary techniques, La Dinastia represents the best of both cuisines.

Two white plates with food in them. The one in the front has meat and fried rice on it. The one on the back has fried chicken.
Shredded beef and fried rice. (Imani Gomez for WSN)

As such, the menu mostly keeps the cuisines separate, with some specials that combine the two, like Lo Mein with Sweet Plantains or House Fried Rice with Plantains and Salad. The Fried Chicken Crackling, or chicharrones, is Lam’s personal favorite, having grown up eating it. The menu also now includes some Dominican and Puerto Rican staples, like Pollo Guisado and Mofongo, as well.

A white plate with fried chicken and fried rice on it. There are kitchen appliances and a chef in the background
Fried chicken and fried rice. (Imani Gomez for WSN)
A red plate with noodles, shrimp and plantains.
Lo mein with sweet plantain. (Imani Gomez for WSN)

“Chinese fried rice is actually not bad with sweet plantain, so we left that together and people love it,” Lam said. “We have been serving that since forever and people are still ordering that.”

Over time, as Chino Latino restaurants became few and far between, Lam and his father were unsure if there was much of a future for La Dinastia and Chinese Cuban cuisine. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, business became even more grim. 

“Before, maybe 10 years ago, I agreed — there was maybe no future in it, but I still insisted and persisted at doing what I am doing now,” Lam said.

Now, Lam has been more hopeful. After organizing a social media team and establishing La Dinastia online six months ago, there have been new customers interested in the story behind the La Dinastia, and of course, its unique menu.

“Just a year ago, I was starting to lose hope. Social media really revived our presence,” Lam said. “I think there can be a future now.”

A man in a white t-shirt, a white hat and a white apron is cooking with his back turned. There are silver cooking appliances around him and a variety of sauces to his right.
A chef working in the kitchen at La Dinastia. (Imani Gomez for WSN)

As the culinary landscape of New York City inevitably continues to change, Lam still hopes to maintain a piece of old New York where Chino Latino restaurants were abundant and carry on Chinese Cuban culture. Recently, it has been exciting for Lam to see younger customers visiting the restaurant and being interested in the cuisine.

“I love to still be part of old New York, y’know?,” Lam said. “As we get older, we tend to reminisce on what we grew up on — that’s what makes us us — so to reflect, to look back and still think and say ‘Well, I’m still here,’ that means a lot to me too.” 

So, if you are ever craving Beef with Broccoli and Picadillo, go to La Dinastia after class and get both. And, if you see Lam, say hi — he’s more than happy to share a little history as well.

About the Contributor
Juliana Guarracino, Culture Editor
Juliana Guarracino is a senior majoring in Global Media, Culture, and Communication and Romance Languages. Aside from writing, she has a passion for cooking, travel and art history. When she's not working, she enjoys reading, playing cozy video games and journaling at cafes. She will take any book recommendations, but cannot promise you that she will read them. You can find her @juliana.guarracino on Instagram.
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