When the lights flicker on and off at The Gourmet Detective, there's no cause for alarm?it's all just part of the show. The interactive murder mystery dinner theatre injects a three-course meal with whimsical performers who blend comedy and drama into a vintage whodunnit. Each show transports its captive audience to the era of film noir, wrapping them into a dark, twisting narrative scored with live music from a lounge singer. The scene is set as guests mingle with the characters at a pre-show cocktail hour, then step into the seedy restaurant those characters run. When the first players are bumped off at the start of the meal, everyone in the crowd becomes equally gumshoe, witness, and suspect. Throughout the dinner, guests can either sit back and enjoy the show or gather clues by talking with the characters who serve each course between the scenes. The evening culminates in a reveal of the real culprit, as well as the audience's most inaccurate guesses.
As a teenager in the farm village of Calabria, Italy, Domenico Maurici helped his family grow farro, a rare grain. After graduating from Italy's Culinary Institute, Domenico went on a cruise of the Pacific Coast and fell in love with Orange County; he selected it as the place where he would open his own restaurant centered on the grain he had grown up with.
At Il Farro, Domenico transforms farro into pastas and risottos, which he uses to build specialty dishes such as the farrotto con salsiccia with Italian-style sausage and pecorino cheese. The menu also includes pizzas layered with prosciutto. If you?re on a date with a homesick mermaid or merman, there are seafood creations such as linguini pescatore with New Zealand mussels, manila clams, calamari, and king crab.
After walking through the brick archway at the entrance to Akropolis Restaurant & Coffee, guests take their seats beneath hanging, tulip-shaped lights. A candle casts a glow over each tabletop, mirroring the warmth of Greek entrees such as souvlaki chicken and moussaka—baked eggplants, potatoes, and minced beef in a housemade cream sauce. The chefs have even instilled elements of the Mediterranean into seemingly familiar dishes such as burgers and pizzas: bifteki patties come crowned with hummus or tzatziki, and the Akropolis pizza bears the weight of gyro beef, eggplants, sliced tomatoes, and red onions. Plates of burnt figs round out dinners, and glasses of Californian and Italian vintages add excitement to meals through the ever-present danger of red-wine stains.
Founded by three former broadcasters and engineers, Pita Jungle now transmits fresh, healthy vibes with salads, tapas, and pitas stuffed with falafel, beans, or chicken. Small plates such as hummus or spanakopita make ideal starters or between-course palate pleasers, and healthy burgers replace beef disks with patties shaped from grilled portobello mushroom or seasoned black beans. Wood-fired pizzas borrow pitas as their base, piling on vegetarian combinations of pesto and feta or hearty creations centered on roasted chicken. Lively plates of mahi-mahi with pita chips or chicken del sol pack a flavorful punch. Enlivened by draft brews, daily happy hours let diners kick back and savor healthy fare.
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 Cuisine of India. Today, the chefs still remain committed to the bold flavors of Northern Indian cooking. Orders of chicken, fish, 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 in a brown-curry sauce help round out the menu's selection of regional Indian cuisine. Sea bass, quinoa salads, and rack of lamb provide nontraditional additions to the menu, as well. Sundays offer a survey of Mayur Cuisine's signature dishes with a prix fixe champagne brunch.
Like the menu, the ambiance at Mayur Cuisine of India is vibrant yet refined. Although an ornate wooden deity sculpture channels ancient traditions, the space also features a handful of more contemporary touches, including large framed images of peacock feathers and napkins made from periwinkle fabric.
In 1969, as San Francisco?s hippies espoused their progressive ideas, the Hoskinson family stuck to the traditions of the Old World as they set foot in the kitchen of their new restaurant, Spaghetti Bender. Today, the family?s stock of classic recipes helps Executive Chef Alphonso Gomez craft more than 15 pasta dishes, ranging from pasta tossed with italian bacon and green peas to spinach tortellini stuffed with ricotta. For carnivorous appetites, Alphonso dishes out portions of chicken marsala and veal parmesan, as well as shrimp and scallop entrees whose preparations change monthly in accordance with new recipes scribbled onto each full moon. Diners can enjoy their entrees ? la carte or accompanied by soup, salad, and garlic bread as complete dinners. Meals can unfold inside Spaghetti Bender?s dining room, which retains the old-school decor from its 1976 remodeling, or on its alfresco patio, which keeps diners entertained with a pair of televisions.