Vera has been just as driven in his domestic life. Shortly after getting his green card he met his wife, Melissa, and they're now parents of a five-year-old and a two-year-old. And he still finds time for pop culture. He compares Habana, not to some other restaurant he's been in, but to the rave dance party scene from Matrix Reloaded. Describing his cooking philosophy, he credits not only Escoffier but also the mouse in Ratatouille. ("It's easy to cook food, but it's not easy to love it!" is how he remembers the message, if not the exact quotation.) He adds: "I use best-quality ingredients with the least cooking required. Why would you cook an heirloom tomato? We don't want to kill the food. It should be alive when it gets to the guest."
Lena, 226 S. Main, 994-2773. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight, Sun. noon-10 p.m. lena-annarbor.com
Habana, 226 S. Main, 994-2774. Mon.-Sat. 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 5 p.m.-midnight. lena-annarbor.com
[Originally published in October, 2012.]