Bella Cuba – Post-Shopping Meal

by Franklin on February 2, 2015

Sometimes, Cuban food just hits the spot. The classic Latino flavors and dishes of Bella Cuba just hit the mark. After a long day of shopping at South Coast Plaza, Bella Cuba was a good energizer. Their classic Cuban dishes were comforting. Nothing is more comforting that having meat and rice.

Bread and butter at its most basic. A nice touch, and something nobody wants to fill up on before dinner.

The roasted garlic chicken was a delicious classic. Not as good as Versailles in Los Angeles, but still a good dish. The black beans and rice went so well with the chicken. The chicken was a bit dry, but had great flavor from the acidic sauce and onions. You know that lemony sauce I am talking about. The thought of it makes my mouth water — perfect for the blank slate of a chicken. The sweet plantains balanced out the savory and sour of the fish nicely.

The ropa vieja was an interesting dish. The comfort of the stewed shredded beef (ropa vieja) and rice was a good combination. The garlic, onions, and peppers were fluorescent and gave the dish nice flavor. It was to me a bit boring and needed something more for the dish to shine. The plantains did a good job in breaking up the mundane savory beef.

I heard goo things of their tres leches cake and had to order one. Though I have had better, and though I prefer my tres leches cake to be very creamy and wet, the cake was a great dessert. From the acidic and savory chicken to the hearty beef and rice, the cake was a nice cool down. If you are expecting the best tres leches cake though, look elsewhere.

Bella Cuba was good but not great. The comforting meat and rice will always be a winner for me. South Coast Plaza, easily one of my favorite malls (if i were rich), has some good eats inside. If you are in the mood for something Cuban and a little in your price range, just go across the street.

Bella Cuba on Urbanspoon


Habana – Cuban Cuisine in Costa Mesa

by Franklin on March 24, 2011

Costa Mesa has a place called The Lab — It is an “anti-mall”.  What the heck is an “anti-mall”?  Anyways, they have a dance club, places to shop like Urban Outfitters, and most importantly, places to dine.  Habana for instance, a Cuban restaurant, is situated in The Lab, and is in the center of it all.

Cuban cuisine is something I don’t try enough — that is probably because there really aren’t many of them around.  At first glance, this restaurant was intimidating.  The inside was dark and almost had a haunted house feel to it.  And when I say dark, I mean you can barely see your food, dark — hence the poor pictures.  I guess it was romantic, in a Gothic kind of way?  They had large tall windows, countless candles, and railings up above.  I couldn’t even find the sign of the restaurant inside or outside.  It was just a large open door with a window and plants all over.  For all I know, the restaurant I went to wasn’t even Habana.

Upon sitting down, we were given some sesame seed topped buns and butter.  My girlfriend ordered the salmon parilla and I had the plantain crusted chicken breast.  Both were great, but I have to say, the salmon was amazing. It changed my aspect of what good salmon is. (I usually do mine with a crispy outside and soft inside.)  Theirs was buttery soft inside and out without a crust.  Taking a bite with the rice and mixed in with the tomato green onion cream sauce was silky smooth.  Often times, restaurants overcook their salmon and becomes too dry, but Habana’s salmon was perfect.  We also shared a tuna tartar with plantain chips.  It was a good opener to what was to come.


My experience at Habana was pleasant.  Good food in an interestingly dark restaurant was something memorable.  I want to come back again and try different dishes on the menu.  I would give their patio a try on a warmer night  They had fire pits to stay warm and the lighting seemed really romantic.  From the looks of it, the patio seemed very easy going and relaxing.  Until  then, thanks for the food Habana.

Habana on Urbanspoon

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