Foodie at Habana, Revisited

Last April I arrived to hidden Habana for the 1st time, curiously hungry and thirsty for their healthy fish sandwich and sinfully sounding Sangria Roja while sitting solo their relaxing, gorgeous, and eye-catching patio.

The 2nd time was a social opposite.  This was during a chilly Saturday night getting warmed up inside with a lively party of 13 to toast a friend’s birthday.  Embracing the candlelit, romantic-calling ambiance, we dominated the peripheral, communal table where half of the group could easily get distracted to people-watching, while the other half could pay close attention to the gazers.

The common tie between these 2 endeavors was the look of indecision thanks to their appetizing, mealtime-appropriate menus.

Because of this slightly large gathering, all my following food encounters reflected on my side of the table.  However, I heavily apologize for not naming some of these platters verbatim and not knowing their prices, so to my best extent we commenced with…

These Seasoned-Fried Avocado Slices tasted average in my book, in spite of the evened breading and flawless creaminess.  The mildly spicy yet effervescently smoky chipotle dip enchanted some oomph that these fritters deserve.

If intense citrus with a nudging robustness of sherry wine sound truly appealing to you, order up the delectably nibbling Marinated Olives.
In a cutesy, mini cast iron pan, the beautifully breaded and peppered Stuffed Pork Croquettes are aptly amazing. Expecting to be a traditional meatball, I was however dumbfounded that, after slicing part of the ball, the inside was a sublimely succulent, phenomenally and consistently juicy shredded pulled pork (i.e. not grounded) clearly being rolled up lovingly to likewise wrap around the gooey and ambrosial manchego cheese.  Its tomato sauce upped the ante by its slight tang and sweetness, with a meaty undertone that I shamelessly scooped some for the fried avocado slices.
Oh, that cheesy goo
Whatever mealtime you’ve stepped in, obviously assuming you take pride in your omnivorous digestive system, these croquettes must be at the top of your personal order list at Habana.
Quarter of the dinner hour passed by right before our main courses took the center stage…
I may not had a chance to take even a bean out of these chromatically appealing & abundant Roasted Seasoned Vegetables, but please take my vegan friend into consideration.
But on the other gastronomic spectrum…
One of my friends nonchalantly allowed me to sample the Ropa Vieja–thrice.  Out of the few other dishes I’ve eaten, both the aggrandizing, savory, and tactfully garlicky tomato-based sauce and the hearty, equitably tender and easily falling apart pot roast made the night’s dinner and my eating life into what felt like a soulfully eternal bliss.  Unless you’re virtuously vegan/vegetarian, if you’re coming during lunchtime and first caught glance at this menu item, trust your darting eyes; I mentioned the daytime interval because I do remember it being priced slightly more inexpensively.
Meanwhile, I was leaning towards either of the 2 chicken dishes served that night.  Go for (another) breaded chicken entree, or for the one that has one of my favorite everyday ingredients–garlic.
But while you’ve tried figuring out, my plate happened to be executed separately by offering me first the black beans.
Eating this alone, the level of flavor was lighter compared to stews in other Hispanic restaurants.  I decided to place this dish aside for my chicken.
Few minutes later the plate with the poultry was the evident reason for the legume segregation.  I eventually chose the one with garlic mojo sauce
Marinated Roasted Half Chicken

Both my friends and myself were dazed at this massive showstopper that I initially thought the menu was too timid to admit that the chicken may be whole.  But in reality the meat, the sauce, and the sweet and sweaty onions covered the fluffy white rice. What’s even more blatant was that the scent of that dainty, harmless-looking rosemary garnish was unexpectedly potent–as if a woman hoarding the treadmill spritzed several mists of the White Diamonds Eau de Parfum–thus, might have affected my approach to this behemoth.

Just as strikingly, the sauce proved more vinegary and pungent than I thought, like about the same level of aromatics as the Ropa Vieja.  I did manage to bite off one drumstick, yet both my taste and olfaction had been overwhelmed with the infiltrating dish that at 1st impression I told my friends, “It’s tasty, but it may not be my personal favorite…”

Or, maybe I had altogether wolfed down one bread roll, one–and a half–Pork and Cheese Croquette, the vegetarian appetizers, the chicken leg, and double my guzzling of water that I had to take 2/3 of my main course in a plastic takeout container.

My Leftover Breakfast

Interestingly, the overnight fridge treatment was optimizing and mellowing the blend of the intense flavors of the garlic, onions, and vinegar–satisfying my hungry hopes.  More impressively was that all my leftover meat was therefore more reveling, attaining the same tenderness and tantalizing chicken skin to eat with the same rice and with salad (from my fridge) as the night of the birthday dinner.

But back to the restaurant.  Our section’s sweet selection was Coconut Sorbet, appropriately stuffed in a soft, half football-shaped shell.

Unusually dense for how a sorbet is traditionally concocted that one hand must hold onto that shell in order to scoop it with another, I stubbornly believe that coconut milk was the binding pizazz for a more stealthy coconut taste.  This even gloated generous shreds of coconut, and the melting factor for a sorbet was curiously slothful and sturdy.

It was indeed an overall light finish for such an exemplary, heavy-feeling eating celebration.  I have came to realize that Habana is still one of the OC gems to treat yourself or a loved one to a delicious feast at any time of their opening hours.  And still, a parking spot at its LAB Antimall is a nasty game for me to snatch.

Grade: B+

Habana
2930 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-0176

Habana on Urbanspoon

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