Thursday, June 21, 2012

Habana (Costa Mesa)

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Habana had been on my to-eat list a looooong time ago - I'm talking about more than a decade ago.  Well, when I left the friendly confines of Irvine and Newport Beach and moved back to Los Angeles, this place slowly but surely faded in memory.  It wasn't that I no longer wanted to go, but it was just too far a drive [at the time] for me and there were plenty of other restaurants around the periphery of my hood that I became privy of.  Basically, Habana became a casualty of "out of sight, out of mind."    

Fast-forward to June of 2012:  Lilly and I were invited to Dinner courtesy of one Mr. Terry Yasutake.  "Hmm," I wondered to myself.  "Where does he want to have Japanese/Sushi this time," I asked (nothing wrong with Japanese/Sushi of course).  "Habana," Lilly answered.  Ha-who??  Ha-what??  "H-A-B-A-N-A," she repeated.  "No way!  Rsvp that sh*t!"  ...And the rest is history.  Now, If I could only find my to-go-to list from 1996, I'd gladly cross it out.  

I am glad we accepted the invitation and I am grateful for the meal.  The food was better than I had imagined.  By no means did it disappoint.  

The first thing we noticed as we walked in [and the main reason why I had wanted to try this place back in the day], is the atmosphere, the mood and the feel this restaurant has.  Once you enter the dining room or patio, you quickly forget you are in stale Orange County.  The lighting is dim and you kinda feel like you stepped onto the set of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" Video.  Okay, maybe that's a stretch but the candles did remind me of the song.  Come to think of it, it also reminds me of this song too.  But I digress...

We all shared a number of dishes and I'm glad to say that the entree I chose for myself was my clear favorite.  Although the dish I ordered is Argentinian more than Cuban (I had steak with chimichurri sauce), everything on the plate had great flavor,  The steak was juicy and tender.  Topped with my favorite condiment, it was over-the-top good.  I also tasted the roasted chicken and plantain crusted chicken and both were about as moist as a piece of chicken can get.  I also enjoyed the salmon and the sauce it came with but I can see some people taking issue with the heavy handedness of the salt that this particular preparation had.  I don't know if that is how salty it usually is, but the plate of food I tried was borderline...so for most people, a nit on the salty side.  

As far as the appetizers go, the shrimp in the ceviche is whole, rather than chopped.  Although the flavor was great, for an appetizer, I'd prefer smaller bits of shrimp - so everyone can enjoy shrimp in every bite.  My favorite appetizer though, was the deep fried avocado slices.  I really doubt this is how Cubans eat avocado, but I really don't care.  If it is good, that is all that matters to me.  My least favorite dish of the night also came in this course.  The empanadas weren't bad, they were just eclipsed by the other standout dishes.

For dessert, we got a basic but successful flan and an almost perfect banana fritter.  The only negative thing I could say about it, was that the pastry dough was a little tough to cut through.  That aside, I wish there had been more to go around.  *Note to self* Make banana fritters at home.

Again, I wanna extend my personal thanks to Terry for treating us to an excellent dinner.  I wish my photographs could have better reflected the quality of the food we ate, but with that damn orange lighting...well, I did the best I could.  Thanks again.   
  



Signage.



Bread 'n [Garlic] Butter.



Caipirinha.



Cocktail Menu.



Shrimp Ceviche with Plantain Chips.



Deep Fried - yes please - Avocado.



Empanada Quartet. 



Skirt Steak Estilo Charrusco.



A portion of the Entree section from the Dinner Menu.



A flavorful salmon dish with a touch too much salt.  



Plantain & Panko Crusted Chicken Breast.



Roasted Half Chicken.



Dessert Menu.



Banana Fritters.  Who are we kidding?  Deep Fried Bananas!



Caribbean Flan. 



The dining room - perfect for a date night with the wifey, girlfriend or sancha for that matter (because it's so dark in here).  I can't speak for the patio outside, but based just on a glimpse, it looked just as nice if not nicer.  Either way, you can't go wrong. 


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