Iron Chef Café uses the heat of the wok, grill, and frying pan to creatively fuse the diverse flavors of traditional Asian cuisines. The menu is peppered with dishes made with the freshest possible ingredients, never with added MSG. Start with an order of crispy Asian lettuce wraps with chicken ($6.29) or shrimp ($7.49) or a plate of crab wontons ($3.95/four), and cleanse your palate with a warm bowl of egg-flower soup ($2.29/small). Specialty dishes from the Japanese grill, served with your choice of brown or white rice, satisfy savory seekers with teriyaki and hula bowls topped with chicken, steak, shrimp, or tofu ($5.49–$7.29) and mixed tempura ($6.79). Meanwhile, a wide variety of fresh wok bites delights with classic stir fries including crispy orange-peel chicken ($7.25), Thai-basil tofu ($6.69), and Mongolian beef ($7.95). For lighter fare, throw back a few fresh sushi rolls ($3.99–$7.49), or indulge in an Iron Chef signature dish such as the honey-walnut shrimp ($9.95) or spicy eggplant ($7.45), both served with brown or white rice. The café also offers a selection of low-carb and dim-sum bites.
The Far East and the Southwest converge behind the glass walls of Dragon Loco Chinese Food, where inventive cooks fuse traditional Chinese and Mexican flavors. The menu teems with tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, which can be stuffed with globally inspired fillings such as carne asada, spicy orange chicken, and Chinese barbecued pork. The burrito loco, a house specialty, pairs bacon’s salty crunch with grilled onions as hot and sweet as a greeting card from the equator. In addition to preparing in-house meals, the kitchen caters parties and meetings with trays of hearty tacos.
At Golden China Restaurant, the chefs manage to fit seemingly hundreds of Mandarin, Cantonese, and Szechuan dishes on one menu. Of their 20 specialty items, highlights include the pan-seared sea bass with ginger sauce and the shrimp and walnuts glazed with honey sauce. Other eats include steamed dumplings, chop suey, fried rice, and mushu, which are pancakes filled with stir-fried green onions, bamboo shoots, scrambled eggs, and meat, veggies, or tofu.
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.
The chefs at R2 Restaurant cook up a menu of East-meets-West fusion fare paired with hot and cold specialty drinks. Dining duos can assuage hunger pangs or attempt to teach other the true meaning of Christmas by sharing starters such as the paper-wrapped chicken or fried tofu. West-leaning appetites are sated with entrees including a seafood alfredo pasta or hot panini, while Eastbound palates can opt for pork fried rice or a curry rice dish. The customizable meals let diners express themselves via choices of rice or pasta, buttered corn or mixed vegetables, a trio of three savory meats, and drizzlings of black pepper, mushroom, or garlic sauce. A generous 24-ounce glass of 1 of 14 different types of iced tea pairs the intricately spiced entrees with exotic flavors such as lychee and plum, and the green boba milk tea lets diners take swift midmeal sips of dairy-infused liquid without toting along their own zip-locked bags of nacho cheese.