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Havana Mania in Brea/Review

Al Bondigas | Apr 23, 200612:49 PM

I visited Havana Mania in Brea. It is located in the mini-mall on Birch west of State College, across the street from the Brea Mall. It's kind of hidden.

It was Friday around 7 pm. The place was packed. They had live music. A little too loud for the smallish locale. They gave us some sliced bread and really good garlic butter.

We were seated in about 10 minutes. We ordered drinks and appetizers. The drinks took a while to come out as they yet to have a traditional bar. Apparently they are going to remodel the place and add a bar in a few months.

Anyway, the mojito was very good. Very fresh and minty in a large glass.

The appetizers came out before the drinks. Bad timing but oh well the place has been there for only 4 months.

Ordered the ham croquettes and a tomato/onion salad. Skip the salad. Small tasteless slices of tomatoes. I had to ask them for some oil and vinegar which came out in a couple of older bottles which obviously came from the South Bay branch.

The ham croquettes were very good. Nice crunch on the outside and good smoky ham on the inside. They served them with a tasty "green goddessy" dressing. Highly recommended.

For my entree, I then ordered the breaded steak (as I usually do the first time at any Cuban restaurant). It was served with rice, black beans and fried plantains. The steak was a little dry and boring. I livened it up with some lemon juice. The version at El Colmao (which I grew up on) is much better. All in all is was good.

My girlfriend had the oxtails. She enjoyed them. There were about 6-7 small ones on the plate. They were very "fall-off-the-bone" tender and tasty. They,too, were served with white rice, black beans and plantains.

A friend had the shrimp and rice dish. She got a large, heaping mound of yellowish-orange rice with about 8 fairly large butterflied shrimp. The only problem is that there was no saffron which would have added that great elusive flavor.

Dessert was flan. Very sweet, almost cloyingly so, but a great partner with the Cuban espresso which is served in a demi cup. Traditionally bitter but excellent sweetened just a tad.

In sum, service was a little off. Food was good. Drinks were good. I will be back. Hopefully they will remodel soon. It should improve with time.

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