The Bountiful Sunday Brunch at Habana in Irvine, CA

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Habana, a beloved restaurant among locals to Costa Mesa for over 20 years, just opened a new location in Irvine. This lavish new spot opened its doors to the public a couple months ago and after scoping out the images of the design on Google, I couldn’t turn down an invite to taste their brunch.

Executive Chef Alex Moreno tells me that this has been a 3-year long project to get the second location running, but good things come to those who wait!

Habana
708 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, CA 92618

Executive Chef Alex Moreno and I

When you first walk in, you can’t help but notice the color pop of the turquoise bar with its grand chandelier- perfect for this Cuban restaurant. The decor makes you feel like you have been transported into another time, very different from the more cookie-cutter spots of the OC. The dining room is so colorful with a lot of pastels and the presentation of the food accentuates the level of liveliness.

On Saturday, January 14th 2018, they will publicly begin their Sunday brunch buffet. My senses were overwhelmed with the sheer amount of food that had been spread out over the many tables. One station allowed you to have a classic omelet prepared to your liking. Another station was covered with fresh seafoods, such as shrimp and crab and ceviche as a separate option. The ceviche was mixed with Mahi Mahi, Spanish Octopus, baby shrimp and a spritz of citrus. The central station had Pollo Asado (roasted chicken) that takes 36 hours to prepare.

Lechon

Plantains, Lechon, Chicharon, Pollo Asado, Ropa Vieja, Tamale, En Cazuela, and Roasted Cauliflower

Options for sides include roasted cauliflower, which was smoky and sweet with a hint of spice. One of my favorite dishes was the Ropa Vieja (shredded beef) which reminded me of a Filipino dish called Beef Asado (a family favorite of mine!) The meat is tender and the flavor is a blend of tomato, pepper, salt and some secret spices. Another favorite dish of mine was the Lechon (a traditional marinated and roasted pig chock-full of flavor). Who serves Lechon during brunch? Habana does! They have won me over with this delicacy. I am used to the Filipino style, where the Lechon skin is fairly crispy. This Lechon skin was a little more tender but still impressive.

Berries of Elegance of the dessert station

I am really impressed with this restaurant and you’ll be happy to know that this packed brunch is only $38.00 exclusively on Sundays. Non-alcoholic beverages are included, but for the good stuff, there are extra charges. I would suggest you go early to avoid the crowd. You are definitely getting your money’s worth for the amount of food you will be getting as well as the mouthwatering options to choose from.

Christine Beligan

I was born in the Philippines and came to live in Los Angeles with my family when I was 3 years old. I grew up mostly eating Filipino Food, Asian Cuisines, and some American comfort foods. I remember us hosting so many parties when I was kid because my Mom was a well known cook amongst our family and friends. Plus, she is from a province in the Philippines called Tarlac and they are known to be great cooks. I started learning how to cook Filipino food in my 20’s, and creating my own versions of adobo, pancit, lumpia, turon, and pineapple chicken. Then I started to create dishes in my mind and cook from there. It wasn’t until my teens that I developed a palate for Italian cuisine, which is my favorite. I began to taste any Italian restaurant that was recommended to me. In the last few years, I have developed a love of going out to dine, and trying new places. It keeps it interesting. I met fellow foodies in the last year who have helped me to develop my palate. I would have never tried Octopus on my own, but there is this one restaurant that turned me on to Grilled Spanish Octopus, Citizen Kitchen by Chef Zach Geerson. I think by attending his wine pairing dinners that I have gone to, it has helped me to enjoy wonderful flavors that I may not have thought would go together. It’s those types of dining experiences that made me hunger for more. It has created this passion inside me to be more bold and daring to accept what is not the norm. With that said I am looking forward to future encounters with Chefs that will blow my mind with their work of art and vision.

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