No no, I was nowhere in the tightly restricted country. This OC restaurant, aptly named Habana, triggered my referring thoughts, calling out more of the catchy Barry Manilow song than the capitol.
This catch, though, was completely serendipitous, even though I’ve gotten hearsay, within a few years, about this unassuming location in the anti-mall pronounced LAB in Costa Mesa. After running errands at the LAB (i.e. attempting to sell clothes at Buffalo Exchange), I was sticking to my plan to lunch elsewhere, until a cargo truck suddenly appeared, when my torso was inches from the opened driver’s side. The nose of the truck was not only a foot (no pun intended) from my car’s trunk, but I would completely risk Cory (i.e. the name of my sedan—deal with me) obtaining damage from a driver who might be hastily passing that parked truck to snatch a parking spot. This led me to, admittedly, a slightly more expensive, edible ordeal at a place lacking a signage, either at the main entrance or the patio gateways.
So, to lead you to the right direction, its spacious, contemporary outdoor patio is directly facing the vaster parking lot (lesson learned to settle my car there instead), and is right next to a vine and shrub-covered mini tunnel, as what I dub it. To approach more safely and courteously I entered through their unnamed, main entrance, immediately noticing the squarely encircled cantina, where a giant, clear jar of the Red Sangria was happily greeting to me. Since it was such a sunlight-filled, comely Thursday in the OC, the patio was the cozier option.
For lunchtime a double-paged, stiff paper menu featured the usual Starters, Ensaladas, Sandwiches, and Entrées. Despite these concentrated items, I was suffering from indecision, mainly because I was not in the mood to bring leftovers from an entrée that costs at least $16. Furthermore, dozens of reviewers, such as on Yelp, had different feedback from one another on certain, consistently mentioned items, such as the Ropa Vieja.
How to conquer from such a wishy washy dilemma while starving? As soon as my waitress obliged me with that enticing Red Sangria (~$8.25), I first asked her, “What would be the top choices, say on sandwiches?” A hesitant, slightly stuttering pause took over her before she answered dishes like Crab Cake, Palomina NY Steak, and Hamburguesa Nueva. Frankly, I was not even close to 50% on my eventual decision, and so my next question was, “What would be your favorite here?” Very noticeably she enthusiastically replied,“I really like the Caribbean Blackened Cod [Sandwich]. It is very well-seasoned, and it’s not that much spicy.”
Immediately, I picked what she loved, and a somewhat grueling 15 minutes later with my sangria 2/3 full, this gleefully and impressively scrumptious, yet astonishingly underrated sandwich completely matched her words.
Though I was famished from errands to table-sitting, because of this impacted, Caribbean-esteemed flavor I stringently followed the healthy approach by relishing every, single bite. Quite strangely, the touch of the baguette felt much firmer from my grasping fingers that I almost became duped that it was not fresh. Thankfully that thought was debunked from my effortless chew to penetrate through the impeccably moist fish filet. Requested on the side, I slightly slathered the papaya mayo in many bites, bringing a lovely yet delicate tang. It further stimulated a slight dimension and assuaged the noticeable yet mild spice from the cod, in terms of chili level. This reasonably priced, $11 sandwich, in addition, included seasoned Island Fries and Mango Slaw, which I eventually remarked in my mind, “Well, at least my sandwich arrived with my favorite indulgence and a very healthy side.” How about that Sangria, though: it definitely passed the alcohol test, by means of the amount.
In short, the Caribbean Blackened Cod Sandwich should not be overlooked on the lunch menu, especially if the attitude is not keen on the traditional meats, while the drink would be better off imbibed elsewhere. I was utmost grateful for my waitress for her recommendation that I tipped higher than my average way of tipping and made a brief, encouraging note on the credit receipt to straightforwardly suggest this inadvertently yummy, healthy pleasure to future guests at Copa Habana.
2930 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626