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Habana

After opening to great reviews and lots of business, Habana is doing well serving upscale Cuban-inspired cuisine and lethal Mojitos on the Van Ness Corridor corner once occupied by Rocco's. While the usual crowd of elder locals still frequents restaurateur Sam Duvall's pet concept (Duvall channels Hemingway from top to bottom), a fresh crowd has poured in to sample the lush, wrought iron-laden environs, the quite delicious food, and the well-executed cocktails. Mid-twenties girls in stilettos fork into perfectly seasoned calamari ($9) fried with bay scallops, green beans and onions, while Pac Heights matrons in Ross Dress-For-Less prints gab over tuna, scallop and shrimp ceviches ($8-$9 each) that range from so-so to soulful.

My lady firefighter friend and I loved the guava-glazed BBQ ribs ($18) in particular, which pair magnificently with the aged rum cocktails and comfy chairs at Habana. While the much-touted Ropa Nueva ($19), a glossy, marinated skirt steak, was fairly stellar, the accompanying shredded beef ragout left something to be desired. The kicky Caesar ($7), with chipotle dressing and not-too-fishy boquerones, was well-balanced and frankly, absolutely perfect.

After a glorious coconut flan ($7), we enjoyed some strong Cuban coffee and a couple of fyne olde rums of the uncommon variety, took a tour of the multitudinous wall tchotchkes with the gregarious Mr. Duvall, and decided that we'd have to return with a group of 6-8 to enjoy the VIP table with its fantasy canopy and prime front and center spot. Habana may be yet another pricey watering hole with a hip concept and good food, but hey, it works, we like it, and so do the good-time foodie friends I know who've gone there.