I feel like brunch buffets have a bad reputation; at least to me that is.
Whenever I think of them I immediately have memories of the typical buffet housed in casinos or the one whose name rhymes with “dome down toupee”. Wherever they’re located, they seem to have the same off putting aesthetic. There’s the smell of cigarette smoke that almost seeps out of the cheap wallpaper, trays of recently cooked food piled on top of “when was that cooked?” food, and sneeze guards with more growing bacteria than a petri dish at a USC laboratory. It’s not a pleasant sight and certainly not a place where I’d like to be.
As much as I try to keep my distance from buffets and buffet menus, I received an invitation for a buffet brunch at Habana in Costa Mesa. The thoughts of unfortunate plates I had while in buffets came flooding back to my mind. The moments and scents I tried to stuff in a dark place in my memory to never be recalled again opened as I read the email. However, taking a look at the respected sender of the joyful message, I knew it couldn’t be as I feared. With that I accepted and made my way to the restaurant in Costa Mesa.
I let out a great sigh of relief as I found Haban and its buffet menu to be nothing like those I had suffered through in the past. Since they merely serve a buffet brunch weekly every Sunday, they didn’t have the same feeling as places I had been to before. Still, the Cuban restaurant with Chef Alex Moreno leading the buffet brunch menu also didn’t look like those I had been to before. At $38 for adults and $15 for children, the buffet was near lavish.
It wasn’t lavish because food wasn’t toppling over each other, bugs weren’t flying into buzzing heat lamps, and wax paper wasn’t catching congealed liquid that was being passed off as sauce. Instead, it was lavish because you can see the restaurant puts sincere effort into everything they do which ultimately makes Habana beautiful. The minute I walked into the patio all I saw was color surrounding creatively plated food. Everything had a place, and each place was designated with a purpose. A large amoire displayed pastries and desserts almost like a carb display case. An array of fruit was upheld in wooden crate as if it just came from a farmer’s market. Oysters and shrimp rested on a bed of ice that gave the feeling that you were ocean-side selecting the items for yourself off a boat. Not to be left out, favorites of plantains, paella, empanadas, and tamales were all ready and freshly made for the taking. Last but certainly not least, an omelet station was available for guests to create an egg-based melody fit to their liking.
The food paired with the beautiful cocktails of a Basil Blood Orange Paloma ($12) made with shaken tequila, grapefruit juice, blood oranges, and served over ice with a grapefruit beer spritz was a great way to get the brunch started. However, if there was a drink that best signified the buffet brunch at Habana it was the spiked coconut topped with lime and mint.
As I enjoyed plate after plate of food I was pleased with how well Habana styled their brunch buffet. My previous relationship with the style of dining was nothing less of disappointing, but Habana has found a way to not only change my mind on buffet menus but make me excited about them. I loved the gorgeous restaurant, how nicely done the food was, and the friendly and attentive staff. It’s the type of buffet that we should all experience in order to rid ourselves of times at similar styled restaurants tucked in casinos. Habana, unlike “dome down toupee” or any of the others, is most certainly worth the visit.
Address: The LAB, 2930 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: (714) 556-0176
Hours: Sunday to Thursday – 11:00am to 1:00am and Friday & Saturday – 11:30am to 2:00am
Social: Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Nice location
- Friendly staff
- Food tastes great