In the kitchen of India House Restaurant, Chef Bassi prepares lamb biryani, chicken tikka masala, tandoori shrimp, and other Indian cuisine. Located in the heart of Buena Park, the eatery welcomes guests with lemon-yellow walls and crimson tablecloths.
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.
Using traditional ingredients, Mughal Halal Tandoori has created an extensive menu of authentic Indian entrees bursting with a variety of flavors. Send taste buds down a culinary river with a range of Indian breads, including garlic naan (stuffed with freshly diced garlic, $1.50) and aloo kulcha (paratha filled with mildly spiced mashed potatoes and peas, $2.50), before docking at curry port, which is occupied by the likes of murgh makhni (butter chicken curry, $7.95) and tala ghost (lamb curry, $8.95). In addition to specialty dishes cooked in the tandoori, Mughal Halal Tandoori serves up a variety of vegetarian options, such as the bhindi masala (mildly seasoned okra, onion, ginger, and garlic, $6.95) and the bagara baigan (Indian eggplant cooked Hydrabadi style, $6.95). Cleanse a spice-soaked palate with the mango lassi, a traditional Indian drink churned with yogurt and milk and flavored with mango ($2).
At Tava Grill and Lounge, owner and chef Punita Patel infuses her seasonal menu with Indian flavors and fresh, local ingredients. The paneer fajita tacos, for instance, ooze authenticity along with housemade cilantro mint chutney that can double as smelling salts for a food-comatose date. The seafood biryani paella evokes both India and Spain with a blend of shrimp, mussels, squid, and crab in a creamy curry sauce.
A separate menu in the lounge marries the food of India and California, as the atmosphere fuses nightclub and fine-dining establishment. Beside a softly lit bar, benches and ottomans are scattered around low tables, which break up regular tables and booths without the staff having to dig trenches around each.