3930 S. Bristol Ave. #114
Santa Ana, CA 92704
The corner of Bristol and Sunflower is quickly becoming the United Nations of eateries. This corner, directly across from South Coast Plaza, features Peruvian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Greek, and Japanese restaurants. Now you can add a Cuban place to that long list of cuisines that can be found on that corner. As soon as we heard there was a new Cuban place here, we could not wait to try it.
Bella Cuba opened about a month ago, and the food blogs have already given some glowing reviews. There is also some mystery surrounding this place. It is rumored that the owner and manager of Bella Cuba are defectors from the most famous Cuban restaurant in LA, Versailles. I have never been to Versailles, but it gets an 88% approval rating on Urbanspoon, four stars on Yelp, and gets rave reviews from others that love Cuban food. So needless to say, I had very high hopes for this place.
We arrived at about 2 on a Sunday afternoon. Kind of the limbo time before dinner and after lunch. A time when most restaurants are slower than normal. That was not the case at Bella Cuba. Almost all of the twenty tables were filled with parties large and small. There seemed to be lots of large families eating here. The decor was warm and inviting. Even with the crowd, we did not feel cramped. With the crowd here, I guess the secret was out about this place. Let's see if the food can match the hype.
After being seated we were brought this Bread Basket. The bread had a nice crunch to it, and was buttered nicely.
Whenever we are in a Cuban restaurant I always have to try the Cubano Sandwich. This might be one of the best ones we have had outside of Miami. This sandwich features pork, ham, pickles, cheese, and mustard, all on Cuban bread. This sandwich was greasy, but that just made it full of flavor. I would have liked this with a little more mustard or pickles on it to break up the saltiness from the meats, but it was a very good start to the meal. The bread had a nice crunch to it. I was a little surprised that they did not offer a media noche sandwich, which is one of my favorite sandwiches of all time.
Katie had heard great things about the Pollo al Ajillo or Garlic Chicken. This half chicken is marinated in mojo sauce and served with black beans, rice, and plantains. The sauce was a little too citrusy for our taste. The citrus taste really overwhelmed the garlic here, but the onions helped to cut the citrus taste.. The chicken was as advertised, as being very tender, and fell off the bone easily. She would have liked a little less bone and more meat, but she would definitely get this again.
It has taken sometime for me to find my go to meal in a Cuban restaurant, but I may have found it with the Macitas de Puerco Fritas, Fried Pork Chunks. This delicious plate had fried and marinated pieces of pork. The pork tasted great, and had a wonderful simple flavor. Reminded me of a sweet and sour pork chunk, without the sweetness. Really tasty, but I thought the portion size here was a little weak. Only about six or seven pork chunks on the plate. The black beans and rice were great when mixed together, and the plantains added a sweetness to the meal, almost like dessert. I would for sure get this meal again.
No trip to a Cuban restaurant would be complete for us, unless we had a Tres Leches slice of cake. Bella Cuba was no exception. The cake here was not as damp as some of the others we have had. The icing was not as sweet either. Still with all of these factors going for it, this was still a great item to finish our meal off with. The tres leches at Felix's is still better, but that will be the only part of the meal that is better.
I am sure you can tell by this glowing review, we really liked our trip to Bella Cuba. The food here was very good, and I was very happy to have found my new favorite meal in a Cuban restaurant. The vibe here was very casual, but the restaurant when full, like it was when we were here is very loud. The service on this day was pretty good. I thought the portions were a little on the small side, but what they lacked in mass, they more than made up for in quality. Bella Cuba is for sure going to be on our heavy rotation list.
Out of five boxing gloves, (one of Cuba's favorite sports), five being best to zero being worst, Bella Cuba gets 3.5 boxing gloves.
For more information on Bella Cuba, click here: http://www.bellacubarestaurant.com/index.html