Grand opening for Habana at The Irvine Spectrum is here! Monday, November 13th! We love the Orange County staple for Cuban food in Costa Mesa. But for those of us in south OC, the highly anticipated opening at The Spectrum has arrived. We were treated to the soft opening in mid-October, and then returned to a hosted “Friends and Family” night; and wow, wow, people: we have a feeling that we will be having many boozy “work meetings,” girls’ nights, and date nights at this location. This is going to be one of our regular haunts for drinks and food. It is tucked away in its own little oasis, away from the other expected chain restaurants in the mall. Habana has transformed this mall space into a beautiful and romantic breath of fresh air by erecting a 1950’s style mansion. This elegant cafe is reminiscent of old world Cuban glamour. The interior feels airy with its high ceilings, and the cafe-styled tables are generously spaced apart, while the outdoor seating is romantic. Habana is striving to provide a unique dining experience in Orange County – reasonable and delicious food with a fine dining flair. Let us also sing the praises of the staff: the service is friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable.
Here’s why the drinks here are exceptional: it’s all about the quality and the freshness of the ingredients–which are all carefully selected using top-shelf spirits–and the attention to detail makes all the difference when you want a good cocktail. I mean, walking up to the bartender and watching him crack open a fresh coconut, and choose non-alcoholic (if you must), Bacardi Superior rum, or Havana Club Añejo rum, then I’m on my way…yes please! We know that coconut water is all the rage, but friends, there is nothing like a fresh whole coconut, its fragrant sweetness, and the smoothness of either dark or light rum that really takes it up several notches. You’ll think you washed up on the Cuban or Miami shores. At Habana, you will find something that will suit any taste: from your traditional sangrias and mojitos, to a solid old fashioned. MaryAnne enjoyed the mojito, refreshing with just a touch of cane sugar sweetness and slightly muddled mint leaves. The rum and Coke kit is perfectly presented on a tray with a mini glass Coke bottle, a mini bucket of ice, lime wedges, and a generous shot of run. The showstopper of all the drinks is the Don Y Doña: stunningly served in a beautiful golden pineapple. The combination of the best rums, Ron Zacapa-23, Havana Club Añejo, passionfruit, orange, guava, nutmeg, and fire (that’s right, fire) makes for a heady and delicious drink.
Saranya is not usually a sweet or fruity drink gal–unless of course she is on a beach and the juices are fresh and not syrupy sweet–but we both loved this drink. At $22 a pop, it is on the pricey side; but we believe it is worth it because of the premium ingredients. And, it is huge and is really equivalent to ordering two drinks. So, order this one drink or share it, but you should definitely try it! The beer and wine selection is also impressively comprehensive. Look, when a cafe has both Negra Modelo (one of Saranya’s favorites with any Latin inspired meal) on draft and PBR in a can, then you have sold us on the ballsy move. And now, the food. Finally, a Cuban restaurant in our own back yard! And as a reminder or intro for our new readers, MaryAnne is our vegetarian/mostly vegan, and Saranya is our equal opportunity eater; so it has been great to taste lots of different foods together, but also with an eye for ways that restaurants can creatively and successfully provide either vegetarian or vegan options. This is the place to come for after work drinks and appetizers. You cannot go wrong with any of the choices. The seafood appetizers are always a hit. The Mariscos Fritos are buttermilk fried seafood fritters, the ceviche is perfectly seasoned, fresh and delicious, and don’t even get me started on the Sofritos Steamers with clams, mussels, grilled fennel, leek sofrito, white wine broth, Spanish chorizo, and grilled garlic bread….swoon! The empanadas are also a must try: the handmade pastry shell is buttery, light, and fluffy with a perfect golden crust. Although both the chicken and corn and cheese are very good, they accommodated us by leaving out the cheese for the corn empanada and we didn’t miss it at all. The main entrees are reasonable for a nice dinner out, most dishes staying right around $20, with a few exceptions. The two Platos Grandes are a bit more, but they are meant for sharing. The Paella A La Habana is a stunning communal dish. You can choose small (serves 1-2), medium (serves 4-5), or large (serves 6-8)…because groups of all sizes should be welcome to partake in Habana’s signature dish. The aromatic sensation is just loaded with clams, mussels, calamari, salmon, sausage, and chicken. Order it. You will thank us. Saranya’s favorite entree, aside from the paella, is the El Churrasco: a perfectly cooked skirt steak with chimichurri, white rice, corn on the cob (be aware in case you are on a first date) with chile lime butter and cotija cheese. There are two lovely and tasty vegetarian options (thumbs up for the attention and care given to vegetarians). One is a yogurt and spiced roasted cauliflower, with seared greens, sweet plantain (perfectly ripe and carmelized), black beans and rice; and there is the Tamale en Cazuela which is a rich and creamy baked polenta with market vegetable, ragu, tomato sauce and a green salad. MaryAnne loved that one!
There is an in-house bakery that is unique to this location. Come get fresh bread, baked good, coffee, as well as breakfast. We have tried the many bakery items from the flaky croissants, cookies, mousses that are just so delicious to the fresh baked loaves of bread. We looked over the breakfast menu and you bet that we will return bright and early, maybe even this week, to try some of the breakfast dishes.
Come by and say hi! You will either see us at the bar or on the patio. What is your favorite drink or dish? Did we miss anything? We were too full for dessert, so if you happen to save room and try it, let us know. We would love to hear from you!
Habana Restaurant at Irvine Spectrum
708 Spectrum Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
Hours of Operation:
BAKERY SUN-THU 7AM-10PM
BAKERY FRI-SAT 7AM-12AM
BREAKFAST MON-SAT 7AM-11AM
LUNCH MON-SAT 11AM-4PM
DINNER MON-SUN 4PM-10PM
SOCIAL HOUR MON-FRI 5PM-6PM
LATE NIGHT WED-SAT 10PM-1AM
BAR SUN-THU TILL 12AM
BAR FRI-SAT TILL 2AM