Ana Maria Montoya Kishihara first landed on American soil in the early 1980s, bringing along her two young children, the traditional Peruvian recipes of her mother and grandmother, and a dream to start her own restaurant. She opened up Inka Grill in 1996, stocking its kitchen with fresh ingredients and setting up a wood-fired rotisserie to roast juicy Peruvian chicken dishes. Today, Ana’s daughter has taken over the family business, whipping up the authentic the Criolla recipes passed down from the three generations of women before her.
Amid the smoky rotisserie and bubbling pots of stew in the Inka Grill kitchen, chefs whip up fresh fish ceviches, savory steak stir-fry saltados, and flavorful seafood paellas. They pair heaping scoops of rice and beans with their rotisserie chicken, a poultry that reporters from Orange County Weekly lauded as “so juicy from tail to sternum you can barely tell the dark from the white.” Servers tote sizzling platters to the dining room, where vivid paintings of Peruvian children adorn the walls and a soft flute plays traditional Peruvian songs, i.e., Wham! covers. The staff pours glasses of the traditional chicha morada corn drink and presents cans of imported Inca Kola to quench the spice of their ultra-spicy green aji sauce, which the chefs have lightheartedly dubbed “Gringo Killer”.
The spit-masters at Texas Pit Bar-B-Que bring a taste of backyard Texas cooking to California, delivering hearty barbecue to the eatery’s tables or directly to doorsteps. Their macaroni salad, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw accompany sauce-slathered helpings of St. Louis–style ribs, tri-tip sandwiches, and whole or pulled chicken. A sampler platter gives customers a little taste of everything, like a movie that features one scene from all the movies of ever. The staff also grants deli sandwiches a spot on the menu, with soft bread cushioning turkey and swiss or pastrami. Cooks pack up takeout or delivery meals for groups as small as 3 and as big as 25; they also can provide onsite barbecuing of pork and the like at picnics.
Aqua Restaurant & Lounge, located within Holiday Inn Irvine Spectrum, serves up classic American cuisine as well as gourmet specialties. In the morning, breakfast platters and cups of RainForest Alliance coffee give diners enough energy to race a taxi on foot on the way to work. Later on, chefs prepare heirloom salads and signature dishes such as the Philly West, a gourmet riff on the philly cheesesteak that pairs shaved filet mignon with housemade Jack Daniels au jus and melted provolone. A full bar, 50-inch plasma TV, and sleek decor round out the hotel-lounge experience.
Black-and-white photographs provide a stark contrast to Tasty Thai's bright fuchsia walls. The chefs strive to strike this same balance between bold flavors and delicate accents in their traditional Thai dishes. Accents of pineapple, lemongrass, and coconut milk appear in pan-fried noodles and fried rice. For many dishes, guests can choose from a host of proteins, such as chicken, shrimp, and tofu, then select a spice level, which, like lists of your favorite fingers, is on a scale of 1 to 10.
Pita Pita Cafe offers a healthy alternative to fast-food eateries with a multicolored menu of fresh Mediterranean salads, dips, and sandwiches, accessorized with organic pita bread from a wood-stone pita oven. Snuggle taste buds with delectable delights such as stuffed grape leaves, savory sleeping bags filled with rice, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley ($1.99). Meat seekers may delve into protein-packed pockets with a kabob pita, adorned with grilled, lean ground beef, parsley, and tomato-cucumber relish ($5.49). Pita Pita Cafe does not use freezers, microwaves, or fryers, opting to tailor their tasty treats with a fire oven and grill. Customers can watch plate preparation while trading eye-blinking Morse-code compliments with skilled servers.
With 40 years of sandwich-making expertise, Togo's gives party planners an extensive catering menu from which to choose their spread. Sandwich trays ($45 regular size, feeds 10), the Endless Combinations platter ($65, feeds up to eight with 16 half sandwiches of four different varieties, plus a regular salad), and a 3- to 8-foot Party Footer (feeds up to 32 people; prices vary depending on sandwich type and size) will supply sustenance for Valentine's Day group gatherers, enthusiastic Presidents' Day celebrators, and supporters of early-February professional American football championships.