Friday, March 25, 2016

A Piece of Havana on Harbor Boulevard

Moros Cuban Restaurant
380 North Harbor Blvd. 
La Habra, CA 90631

Yes, it's been a long time since we have made it up to OC's most northwestern city. The Seattle of the OC, if you will. When most people think of La Habra, they almost always question me that this city is not actually in Orange County. Yes, this city contracts with the Los Angeles County Fire Department for fire protection, but trust me, La Habra is really in OC.

We have not come up this way in over 4 years, when we made our maiden voyage here to visit one of the best burger spots anywhere, G Burger. This trip we were visiting my parents, who live in Yorba Linda, and we all had a craving for Cuban food. A quick search of Yelp brought us to Moros Cuban Restaurant.

Moros is celebrating their 5th anniversary of being in business this year. That's a pretty big milestone in the tough restaurant business. Located in a nondescript strip mall, which big draws appear to be a Pizza Hut and Cask and Hammer, an interesting looking dive bar, this five year anniversary is even more impressive here, where if you blink driving up Harbor, you might miss this place.

Their website describes their restaurant as a modern take on Cuban cuisine, which is influenced by Spanish and Latin cooking. The kitchen, and this restaurant is helmed by Sean Saafan, an Egyptian, who at the age of 19, moved to New York, attended the French Culinary Institute, and graduated top in his class. Pretty impressive resume here, and it made us very excited to try the food at Moros.

We arrived at Moros just before 6pm on a recent Saturday. Not a big place, I was a little worried that we were going to have a long wait, but we just had to wait for one of the 12 tables to be cleared, and we were seated. There's no hostess stand here, and when you walk in you see the steam tables used for their Sunday buffet, and you think you order at the counter, but it's waiter service here. Lots of bright colors adorn the space, and the smells from the kitchen really got our mouths watering. We hurriedly made our selections, and waited for our food to come out.

Before our food hit the table, we were presented with these Rolls and Black Bean Dip. The rolls had a subtle sweetness to them, and this wonderful bean dip added some nice flavor to the rolls. In the picture the bean dip appears to be runny, but it had some texture to it. I ate my fair share of this.

Whenever I think empanadas, I always think of Argentina, but other countries feature these portable meat filled pies as well. At Moros they offer either Beef or Chicken Empanadas ($5 for an order of three), so of course we had to try both. The better of the two was the beef version, but both suffered from a very bland, and almost dry outer shell. The chimichurri served with these helped a little bit, but not enough. These were not filled with enough meat to overcome the outer shell. We'd skip these next time.

Something that you must not skip though, were these Papas Rellena ($5). These little balls of deliciousness were filled with some ground beef and onions, and then encased in mashed potatoes, and fried. Kind of like a bite sized version of sheppard's pie. They were served with a thin white sauce, which coated them well, and added some extra flavor. Very tasty appetizer.

Entrees are up next, and I was a little surprised with my sister's selection, the Churrasco ($19). I can't remember the last time I saw her order steak in a restaurant, so this was something rare indeed, no pun intended. This skirt steak was actually done to her requested medium, and it was still pretty juicy and delicious. It came with grilled onions and chimichurri sauce. Skirt steak can sometimes be hit or miss, but this was a winner on this evening. It also came with a mound of rice and some very good plantains. My sister did not eat too much of this, but took the rest home, and enjoyed it the next day.

I really wanted to try one of their rice dishes here, but the menu states that they take 30 to 40 minutes, and I did not want everyone to have to wait for my food, so I went with this Lechon Asado ($14). This marinated pork came topped with onions and a mojo sauce. Some pieces were a little dry, but this was remedied by asking for a little extra mojo sauce. This was a pretty good sized portion, and it was very good the next day. The rice here was good, but the plantains were better. Fried nicely, and not overly sweet. Just the way I like them.

Both Katie and my mom got sandwiches, so we'll start with Katie's first, the Chicken Sandwich de Moros ($11). This sandwich also comes in a beef or pork option as well, but Katie's always partial to chicken. The chicken was joined on the toasted bread with plenty of greens, tomato, and their secret sauce. Katie felt the chicken here was a little on the dry side, but she enjoyed the flakiness of the bread. She thought this was a decent chicken sandwich, but did not really think of this as being very Cuban. She'd get something else on her next visit here.

My mom is a sucker for Cubano Sandwiches ($11), so I was not shocked to see her order this. In my opinion, the Cuban sandwich is one of the most balanced and delicious sandwiches ever created. You have saltiness from the ham and pork, the tang from the mustard and pickles, the creaminess of the Swiss cheese, and a touch of sweetness from the bread they use. All these components make a pretty awesome sandwich, and this one at Moros was right up there. They use a lot of meat in this, a lot more than we are used to seeing in a Cuban sandwich. It could have been pressed together a little more, but the abundance of meat probably prevented that. This was served with some long, steak sized fries, which had a nice crispness to the outside of them. My mom is more partial to smaller fries, but found these to be acceptable. A lot of food here, and half of it got packed away for my dad's lunch the next day.

Speaking of my dad, his entree was the last one to hit the table. It's always a crap shoot as to what he's going to order, but he settled on this Camarones Al Ajillo Con Rum ($16). This shrimp dish with peppers and rum made my dad very happy. The waitress kind of talked him into going with a lower spice level than he would have liked, but the flavors were still pretty stellar here. The shrimp were cooked well, but the sauce was what made this dish for me though. When it was mixed with the rice, it kind of resembled a jambalaya. Very tasty, and deceivingly filling.

Moros is not like any Cuban restaurant we have been to before. I think they definitely nailed what they are going for here, and that's a modern take on Cuban food. The flavors were bold, some of the meats did have some issues, but for the most part everything was very solid. The next time we are here I'll definitely invest the time, and try one of their rice dishes, which looked and smelled wonderful when it was brought out to nearby tables. I thought the prices were more than fair for the amount of food you get here. Service was superb, with Diana taking care of our every need, even on this busy Saturday evening. Glad we made it up here to La Habra again, and it will definitely not be four years before we're back.

Out of five horses, (because the La Habra Stakes is run at Santa Anita Park almost every year), five being best to zero being worst, Moros Cuban Restaurant gets 3 horses.

For information about Moros Cuban Restaurant, head to their website here:

Moros Cuban Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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