Ravi and Sunitha Koneru don't much care for limitations. Not in their food, their decor, or their vision. When designing the menu for Chakra Cuisine they saw the entirety of India as a source of inspiration, from the tandoori of the North and the curries of the South to the street food of Bombay and the recipes of their native Hyderbad. And then they looked even further. What they found were ingredients such as banana leaves, scallops, and caramelized pineapples—ingredients rarely used in Indian cuisine that expertly matched the flavor profiles they dreamed up. The result is a blend of traditional and modern, where classic dishes such as chicken tikka masala segue into spicy reinventions, including a vegetable masala quiche.
The dining space is likewise a mix of old and new. Indian accents anchor the sleek, contemporary aesthetic of the dining room and private lounge, while colors drawn from the dishes themselves combine to create a cohesive backdrop. Red and gold dominate the interior, but brighter colors surround the bar, notably inside its seven specialty martinis. As for the outdoor patios, their tables center around a circular fire pit, whose flames tempt guests to sit amid the mandarin-orange trees and tell scary stories about hitchhikers with samosas for hands.
Traditions' authentic Indian menu sates spice-seekers with a host of chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian dishes, all of which are made and spiced to order. The refreshing lentil, mango corn, tomato, and Mulatwani soups (all $3.50) revitalize tired taste buds and bring meaning to the lives of previously empty bowls. A vast selection of entrees helps diners find their culinary love connection, whether it be with the chicken coconut curry ($11.95), the tandoori shrimp ($14.95), or the mugali lamb biryani ($12.95). Release your inner herbivore with a smorgasbord of vegetarian options, or coat throats with the strawberry lassi ($3.50), a popular cold drink made from yogurt, milk, and Indian spices.
Despite living half a world away from the restaurants that her family founded in India over the years, Anju Kapoor chose to continue the family legacy in 1984 by opening Mayur. Now celebrating the restaurant's 30th anniversary, the chefs remain committed to the bold flavors of Northern Indian cuisine. Chef Dharam Singh has been with Mayur since its inception?he previously worked with the Kapoor family in India. Orders of chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetables arrive straight from the clay tandoor oven, which is also used to bake naan. Spicy lamb vindaloo, spinach cooked with homemade cheese, and eggplant help round out the menu's selection of regional Indian cuisine. Sea bass, quinoa salads, and rack of lamb are less-traditional additions to the menu. Sundays offer a survey of Mayur's signature dishes with a prix fixe champagne brunch.
Like the menu, the ambiance at Mayur is vibrant yet refined. An ornate wooden deity sculpture of Ganesh channels ancient traditions, the space also features a handful of more contemporary touches, including large framed images of peacock feathers.
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).