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.
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.
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.
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.