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Quickbite at Bella Cuba in Santa Ana

December 8, 2011
Scott Mindeaux, Editor

1 Disguised Foodie commented on this...

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! :)

Bella Cuba
3930 S.Bristol Avene, # 114
Santa Ana, CA 92704
714-545-5711
www.bellacubarestaurant.com

Bella Cuba on Urbanspoon

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One Comment »

  • Don B said:

    The Orange County restaurant landscape has recently been blessed with Bella Cuba. A famous Cuban proverb says, “A love that can last forever takes but a second to come about.” I can think of no better way to describe the love affair that your taste buds will discover when they are exposed, if but for a moment, to the incredible flavors being presented at Bella Cuba.

    When you work at the most iconic and famous Cuban Food restaurant in Los Angeles, you pick up a few things. Antonio Chaidez honed his restauranteur skills at Versailles for more than 25 years and has brought the flavor, presentation and sense of family that is what Cuban cuisine is all about, to Santa Ana and located it right across the street from South Coast Plaza.

    The roasted garlic chicken is legendary in L.A. and Chaidez hasn’t missed a beat with it at Bella Cuba. Practically falling off the bone when you simply look at it, the crispy skin and delectably marinated meat guarantee your palate a love at first bite experience, a mixture of flavors and texture almost too good to be true.

    All of the Cuban favorites are on the menu. Ropa Vieja, which is Spanish for “Old Clothes” is true Cuban comfort food, feeling good like a comfy shirt and faded, stone washed jeans. Tender shredded beef simmered in a tempting sauce served , as are most of the dishes at Bella Cuba, with rice, black beans and sweet plantains.

    The garlic shrimp is served in a spiced, garlic butter sauce that will have you asking your server for more bread, so as not to miss a drop. I would drink that sauce if it were served in a shot glass.

    Bella Cuba also features a Cuban Paella for one or two. Suggest calling ahead for this one as the menu indicates it takes 45 minutes to prepare.

    Restaurant is spacious and very clean, there is an ample selection of wines and both bottled and draft beers. Word is spreading fast, restaurant was packed at 6:00 PM on a Friday evening after having been open less than three weeks.

    Bella Cuba is located at the corner of Bristol and Sunflower in the Ross Shopping Center. Take out is also available.

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