I was in the South Coast area and decided to try a new place on the corner of Sunflower and Bristol called Bella Cuba. It is located in the same shopping center as Ross, Bed Bath and Beyond and Sports Authority on the corner.
The permanent signage isn’t up, but you will find them with two banners out in front of the restaurant. There is plenty of seating and even outdoor seating with cover from the sun or rain.
The restaurant is still fairly new. According to the OC Weekly there was a previous Mexican restaurant that was in this space and it was purchased by some former Versailles employees (rumor). While it doesn’t say it on the website, it does say the owner has 25 years of experience honing his skills at a well known Cuban restaurant in LA.
When you are seated, you are offered Garlic Bread and was asked if I wanted a beverage. Today I started with an order of Beef and Spinach Empanadas followed by an order of Lechon Asado (tender pork in a mojo sauce with grilled onions, rice, black beans and fried plantains.
My empanadas showed up pretty quickly at the table. With it comes a dipping sauce. The outside of the empanada was crispy and flaky. Light thickness in the dough and simple ingredients. The first bite is flaky and flavorful. The filling is tasty but unremarkable. I guess I was expecting something a bit more with bigger chunks of meat. It was a simple ground beef filling. The second empanada had a spinach filling. I’m not fluent in Cuban cuisine at all. The dipping sauce was some kind of olive oil mixture and tasted like Italian dressing to me.
Minutes later my order of Lechon Asado showed up. Again, not well versed in Cuban food, the word Lechon caught my eyes as it is the same word for a Filipino pork dish. The menu lists Lecohn Asado as tender pork simmered in a mojo sauce with grilled onions. Also on the plate is rice and fried plantains. The plate had a tons of onions on the plate. I was a bit surprised as I was expecting grilled onions on top, but those were more raw and seemed a bit off putting to me. The pork however was very tender. Your first reaction is that it is greasy and oily. The mojo sauce it is simmered in is quite flavorful and seasoned well. It wasn’t oily at all. The accompanying rice has just a bit of stickiness to it and the black beans were made with mini-sized means, almost the size of capers. For a moment I thought they were whole peppercorns in the lechon! The fried plantains were a bit oily on the outside, but I ate all three of them!
There was a selection of beers on tap as well as bottled along with a selection of wines.
Bella has only been open for a few weeks, so let’s see if they can pull the foodies in. The menu isn’t complicated and concise. If anything, their only drawback is the building they are in. The restaurant is “below” street level at this point and signage not on the street side could affect things. That space has had several tenants in the last few years.
I will have to do try some Cuban food so I can appreciate the flavors more. Someone said to try the Garlic Chicken and the Ropa Vieja! :)
3930 S.Bristol Avene, # 114
Santa Ana, CA 92704