Pan of Asia introduces the vibrant colors and intense flavors of beloved dishes from across China and Southeast Asia. Like the cafeteria at the United Nations, Pan of Asia’s menu spans a continent’s worth of delicacies, from spicy-sweet Thai basil with tender morsels of tofu and chicken, to exotic Malaysian curries, to several crowd-pleasing Chinese dishes. Guests can sink their teeth into salt and pepper shrimp, citrus fried chicken, or spicy garlic eggplant. And for dessert, Pan of Asia finishes meals with green-tea or mango ice, or sweet dim sum.
The master grillers and stir-fryers of East Winds Asian Cuisine craft a medley of Asian flavors with a menu boasting a variety of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai dishes. Having so many influences and cuisines coming out of one kitchen lets the restaurant please picky palates with dishes such as honey-walnut shrimp, barbecue spareribs, and japanese vegetable curry. The friendly wait staff can make informed wine and sake recommendations and answer questions about dishes or the history of the chopstick versus popsicle-stick pop-art era.
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 Flame Broiler founder Young Lee found himself eating out of paper bags quite often. His career required a great deal of travel during the day, which made eating from fast food restaurants a habit. Unfortunately, his options for healthier, quick-service fare left him craving something different. In 1995, he took matters into his own hands and opened the first Flame Broiler location, serving Korean-style slices of beef and chicken that were free of dairy, trans-fat, HFCS, and added MSG. He didn't just take away harmful ingredients, though?he also added his signature Flame Broiler marinade and sauce, beds of white and brown rice, and slices of crisp vegetables. This more nutritious take on fast food caught on, as diners can now eat at 135 Flame Broiler locations in four different states and two parallel universes.
Hot Wok's brand of Cantonese cuisine, like its name, is refreshingly straight forward. Just because the cooks forgo frills doesn't mean they skimp on flavor, though. To ensure dishes pack a delicious punch, they rely on a lineup of vibrant sauces that range from a special garlic variety to spicy Sichuan influences, and use tender white chicken meat in many dishes. And whether they're sauteing the aforementioned chicken for moo goo gai pan or stir frying sliced beef with orange rinds and chili peppers, the cooks never use MSG to artificially enhance the taste. They can also happily whip up low-fat entrees, as well as omit salt, sugar, or soy from any dish.
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.