At Kenyan Café and Cuisine, chefs craft authentic Kenyan recipes from scratch, flavored with aromatic spices from Africa, India, and the Middle East. Crispy samosas shine in the menu's appetizer section, followed by main courses such as stews studded with lamb or fish and vegan collections of lentils and greens. Diners can eat with their hands, using polenta-like ugali as a malleable utensil, or dine with knife and fork as they avail themselves of the restaurant's Kenyan beer and flat-screen TVs.
Tucked away in the kitchen of each Paris Baguette, bakers trained in French techniques craft buttery, flaky croissants and tart crusts, and their success at this has earned attention from the likes of the New York Times. In addition to pastries and sweets such as mocha rice balls, the bakers knead bread for their namesake baguettes and yeasty creations that hold an Asian twist, such as red-bean-paste-filled donuts. The experts also create fondant-cloaked cakes that venture beyond classic flavors into green tea, cappuccino, and sweet potato, delighting partygoers bored of the same laminated sheet cake that makes its appearance at each year’s birthday celebration.
To wash down these treats, patrons sip cups of java or more exotic drinks such as wheatgrass and black-sesame lattes, persimmon smoothies, and bubble tea. At lunchtime, many locations layer sandwiches, filling hungry stomachs with croque monsieurs and baguettes stuffed with chicken and pesto.
The decor of Habiba Abdi’s restaurant, Gendershe Cuisine, is not ostentatious—she tries to impress the four senses besides sight. The aroma of all-halal meats marinating in signature spices tints the air, heralding Somali entrees such as the hilib ari, a goat dish that OC Weekly deemed "gamy and glorious." Mango lassis cool the tongue with a mix of almond milk, fruit pulp, orange juice, and vanilla. Pieces of bur—somali fry bread baked onsite—engage the hands, encouraging patrons to soak up lingering sauces with their dough instead of a friend's shirtsleeve. All the while, guests absorb the sizzling sounds of salmon and tilapia being sautéed in the kitchen's special "mother sauce."
Named after the Somalian city where Abdi’s father grew up, Gendershe Cuisine is an outpost of a kind of cooking rarely found in the United States, much less Orange County. Even so, Somalia’s rich culinary tradition—influenced over the years by Italy, India, and surrounding East African cultures—means that many dishes may look familiar even to the uninitiated. Crispy, triangular sambusas are relatives to indian samosas, ethiopian injera pops up beneath stews of beef, chicken, goat, or fish, and spaghetti and lasagna lie under sauces subtly spiked with Somali herbs and spices.
Embracing the Middle Eastern culinary tradition of mezze?small plates of appetizer-like nibbles meant to be shared? Nara Bistro serves hot and cold varieties, including stuffed grapes leaves, creamy hummus, and spinach pies. Nara also serves traditional entrees such as chicken and minced beef strung along skewers on the grill and falafel tucked into sandwiches with mint and tahini. Its chefs also make classic Middle Eastern desserts, from baklava flavored with orange blossom syrup to sweet cheese-stuffed crepes. And all the dishes can be washed down with a bevy of beverages: fruit and honey smoothies, turkish coffee, and a wide selection of exotic teas populate the menu.