Habana - Costa Mesa, CA
I've heard so much praise about this place along with the shock I received from when I tell people I have never been here before. Their response is like, "And you're a foodie?!" Um...okay. Who are you to judge me? Geez. So coming here, I obviously had high expectations. Habana serves up Cuban fare, which is probably the reason for its excessive praise - it's different and unique, and hipsters LOVE being the first to know it all. The spot is candlelit, intimate and the place to be seen, which may or may not be a good thing depending on the occasion. It also gets loud outside, so if you're on a date (it's a pretty romantic spot), I suggest sitting inside.
We started the evening with drinks - Templeton Manhattan, Mojito and Margarita. We also got a few appetizers to share.
Shrimp & Ahi Ceviche served on a coconut half shell. The shrimps were fairly large and the ahi sashimi got lost in a textural mush. There wasn't a whole lot of spice (habanero salsa, really?) or flavor (where was the citrus?)
Spanish Chorizo Sofrito Steamers. Manila clams, green & black lip mussels, sofrito white wine broth and chorizo sausage. The shellfish was TINY. The broth was tasty though!
For entrees, I had split the El Puerco Primo. My friend thought it was bland and flavorless. The slow roasted then fried pork on its own was underseasoned, which makes no sense to me if it's been braised in an osso-buco au jus. Yeah...wut? On the bright side, the sides were tasty. The collard greens were flavorful and could use a bit more time for tenderness, but it had some crunch to it, which was fine with me. However, as an entree, the main point of the dish didn't win me over.
My other friends got a Citrus Marinated Pork Belly and a Marinated-Roasted Half Chicken. They had enjoyed their portions and pretty much cleaned the plate.
Would I return? Maybe not on a first choice basis, but I would give it a second chance before writing Habana off as another hype place. Maybe I've been sipping too much of that haterade with all these high expectations. At least I'll know better for next time.
2930 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626