Royal Khyber - report
Had a great experience at Royal Kyber recently. The restaurant is replete with fine art, romantic lighting, white table cloths and nice silverware. Very upscale place, but quiet when we arrived at 6:00 pm.
A few customers did trickle in eventually; a pair of ladies with business suits; a trio of 20-somethings in jeans; and an Indian girl in her twenties meeting the family of her Caucasian boyfriend for the first time. I guess she picked the restaurant.
The staff, professionally uniformed was warm and accomodating and refilled out water glasses as soon as it was half empty.
A basket with crispy wafer-like crackers were brought out with two sauce accompaniments. The green sauce was herby, chunky and spicy; the dark burgundy sauce was sweet, sour and hot. (If anyone can educate me on what this was, I'd be appreciative). I almost singlehandedly obliterated the crackers; delicious.
We ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Tulsi Mushroom Matar Khorma, which was described as "fresh mushrooms and peas sauteed in basil cocunut gravy." Both dishes were a la carte, and served in ornate silver serving platters. To accompany the main dishes, we also had two orders of basmati rice pilaf, which had slivers of carrot and something else I could not identify. The rice was fluffy and aromatic, a perfect foil to the tikka masala, which was bright red and had the right level of spice and creaminess. I tasted roasted red peppers in the sauce. The chicken chunks in it were white meat and moist. The mushrooms and peas were tasty too; the brown gravy had a great and powerful blend of spices I've never had before, its hotness tempered by the coconut milk. For dessert, we had the mango creme brulee which had combined the classic custard flavor with the tartness and sweetness of mango. The caramelized sugar crust further balanced the tartness of the custard. All in all, a great meal. I will be back for more someday.
The crispy wafers are called poppadum, and the dark sweet/sour sauce is a tamarind chutney. The spicy green sauce is a corriander chutney.
If you're lucky enough to find it, some restaurants also serve a delightful tomato chutney, or, if you like to cook, you can find several recipies for it on the web.
By the way, have you tried Natraj? Rhoyal Kyber has good cuisine with upscale decor, but for tastier dishes and more reasonable prices, I strongly recommend Natraj. They have both the tamarind and the corriander chutneys sauces, as well as the raita (a yogurt condiment) which goes great on rice. The Sunday champagne brunch buffet is excellent. I recommend asking for garlic naan when you're seated (free of charge upgrade), and then I recommend getting a very small plate of samplers to taste what they have in the buffet. Then, after tasting a little bit of everything, focus on your favorites. They have wonderful chicken tikka masala, a good spinach dish, and I like to eat the tandori chicken with onion and a squirt of lemon on top (it provides a wonderful balance). The samosa's are tasty, especially with both the tamarind chutney and the corriander chutney lathered on top, but they are very filling.
Note that chicken tikka masala, which is one of the most popular "Indian" dishes in the world, is actually an English bastardization. The English claim to have invented it, and it is their national dish. You can even find it in random pubs all throughout England. Whatever its history, it is the one dish that keeps me and my girlfriend going back to Natraj on a regular basis. Every time they see us, the wait staff immediately fires up a basket of garlic naan, without having to be asked!
Natraj Cuisine Of India Rstrnt
24861 Alicia Pkwy # Ab
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
Phone: (949) 581-4200
Warning: the speed bumps in the parking lot are unusually high. My car is not a "lowered" car, but for some reason, it bottoms out on the speed bumps, even when I go VERY slow over them, so choose a car with relatively high suspension.
re: Irvine Munchy
Natraj is top notch Indian food. They have another location on the east side of PCH in Laguna Beach.
My Indian wife refers to the green chutney as "Mint Chutney". I know there is also rasin chutney.
For delicious no frills dhaba (hole int the wall)type Indian food try "A Taste of India on the northeast corner of Warner and Magnolia in Costa Mesa, highly recommend.
Thanks for the report-glad you liked it! If you're up for more Indian food, I would also recommend Natraj, as mentioned, as well as Mayur on PCH on Corona del Mar, and a new place, Bombay Garden in Mission Viejo. I actually like Bombay Garden the best-excellent prices and the food was extremely fresh.
2931 E. PCH
Bombay Garden (Kailedoscope Shopping Center)
27741 Crown Valley Pkwy., #221
re: Irvine Munchy
Well, this is a little off topic of the Royal Khyber discussion, but here it goes:
Indian: Mayur in CDM, Bombay Gardens in MV, Natraj in Laguna Hills, Royal Khyber in Costa Mesa
Mexican: Javier's in Laguna, though russkar recently reported it wasn't up to par, Wahoos (though not everyone likes it, but I'm a huge fan of the fish burrito), Moreno's in the City of Orange (cheap, good food, and fun outdoor patio), El Cholo (but only for green corn tamales); Las Golondrinas in San Juan.
Upscale: My fiance and I try to treat ourselves to some upscale restaurants whenever we get the chance, so these are our favorites-Pascal in NB, Golden Truffle in CM, 230 Forest in Laguna, The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton (the most expensive of the group, but fabulous), Napa Rose in Anaheim, Pinot Provence in CM; Sorrento Grille in Laguna; French 75 and Chat Noir (Laguna and CM, respectively, are good, but we prefer the others listed first); we've yet to try The Studio at the Montage, but have heard it's very good.
Japanese: Sushi Shibucho in CM-my all time favorite; I won't eat sushi anywhere else in OC.
Chinese: Yet to find a place I like. I tend to lean towards the more Americanized Chinese food (gasp...), but I can't find a place around OC that I like. Any suggestions?
Thai: I believe it's Thai Kitchen in Irvine (on Barranca, next to Lamppost Pizza)
Pacific Rim: Roy's in NB
Pizza: I am a total ghetto pizza eater-I'll eat almost anything, but I have a preference for Lamppost.
Italian: Pina's Bistro in Tustin-soooo good, but very small restaurant; may need reservations on Fri. or Sat. night.; Ti Amo in Laguna-great views and food.
American/Bar food: I am a big fan of bar food and such; my favorites are Ruby's for turkey corn dogs, onion rings, and milk shakes; Chammps at the Irvine Spectrum for anything greasy; The Hat (I think it's in Anaheim, or Brea maybe...); BJ's Brewery for deep dish pizza, beer, and pzookies.
Steak: Our favorite in OC is Ruth's Chris; didn't care for the Morton's here; Fleming's is decent but a big scene; also really like The Bungalow in CDM.
Other places I like are Memphis in CM for lunch; Cafe Pascal at South Coast Plaza for sandwiches and Pascal Epicerie in CM for sandwiches, tapenade, etc.; Johnny Rebs in Orange for southern food.
There are soooo many places we still need to try, but we definitely get stuck in a rut with a lot of our favorite places. Would love to here some of your suggestions...
Thank you for the thoughtful response.
On Indian food, our favorite is Natraj, although my girlfriend and I plan on trying Bombay Gardens on your recommendation. I haven't really enjoyed Mayur, mostly because I feel their chicken tikka masala is sub par, but their other dishes are actually quite good. We also go to Natraj Express at the Tustin Marketplace by Lowes. A single three dish combo is enough for us to share for a tasty, filling lunch.
For Mexican, my current favorite is Arriba Grill on Alton and Technology (just south of the spectrum). I get only one thing there, and it's not on the menu: the Arriba burrito with their juicy, savory, tender carnitas (truly delicious). In fact, I will probably go there for lunch today. I've liked Javier's (although I wasn't in love with it) and I'm looking forward to trying the one opening at the Spectrum. I'll try the Wahoos fish burrito (but I usually find it at least passable).
We've tried a number of upscale restaurants, but we're generally disappointed. Our best experiences have been at the Sands at the Surf and Sand hotel. The food has been well balanced with delicate flavors, and it's hard to beat the beachfront patio. We used to enjoy 21 Oceanfront, especially for their bananas caramel dessert, but it has gone downhill recently. I agree with you whole heartedly on Ruth's Chris--the best steak around. I usually prefer Morton's over Ruth's Chris, but in Irvine the Ruth's Chris is king. The Ritz is good, especially paired with the wine tasting menu, but the enclosed dining room is a real SHAME considering the location. Have you ever been to the Hobbit in Costa Mesa? If you like wine, you might enjoy it very much. They start with champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the wine cellar, a very old cellar stocked full of an eclectic mix of vintage wines. A few of the hors d'oeuvres are fantastic. I suggest getting the sommelier wine tasting paired with the meal; it will provide you with a much better bargain than purchasing their wine by the bottle. Also, call ahead and get the menu for the night; I really enjoyed their apple tarte tatin.
We'll go try the Sushi Shibucho in CM. Any favorites or must haves there? I like Maki Maki at the Spectrum during their 1/2 priced happy hour at the sushi bar (Mon 3:30 to close, Tues-Thurs 3:30 to 6:00). We get their spicy tuna hand rolls, salmon with onion sushi, their baked bay lobster roll, and their yellow tail. Great, inexpensive sushi meal, with high quality fish.
Japanese: Sushi Shibucho in CM-my all time favorite; I won't eat sushi anywhere else in OC.
Chinese. Have you tried A&Js? It's not Americanized, but you need to know what to order there (not everything is good). I also like Jamilla Garden in Tustin for Chinese Muslim food, China Garden for dim sum, and the Sam Woos on Jeffrey and Walnut for their Ma Po Tofu and their egg custards. In terms of Americanized Chinese food, we usually order out from Pei Wei on Alton and Jeffrey. We get their shrimp with lobster sauce and sometimes their flat noodle dishes (beware, some of the other food is really not very good).
We got sick at Thai Kitchen, so we don't go there anymore. We're still looking for a good or passable Thai restaurant. Thai Spice is so-so.
I like Lamppost Pizza for their meatball subs, but I will try their pizza next time. I like Pizza Hut, but it's too heavy and greasy for me most of the time.
We've been looking for good Italian, so we'll try Pina's Bistro. We usually go to Pasta Pomodoro in Irvine, which is walking distance from our house. The food is only OK, but they have this great tangy green sauce for their bread.
We always go to Ruby's for their burgers (usually the guacamole burger), their chili cheese fries (lite), and their apple pie a la mode (one of our absolute favorite desserts).
Some other favorites:
Caspian: get their filet mignon kebab. Great!
Korean restaurant in the same shopping center but over by Ace: great side dishes. We get the jap chai and the bubgogi or the kalbi.
Ummm, I know I'm forgetting a bunch. If you like wine, and you want a chance to get an eclectic wine education for free, there is the Wine Room at 16 Technology, where they do free wine tastings every Friday evening after work. You can sample 5-15 wines each night, and they have a fair selection in stock. Of course, you should buy what you like. I'm a big wine collector, and I work across the street, so I go there fairly often (they also have good cheese).
Oh yeah, not to be missed (you must go here for a weekend breakfast): Ramos House Cafe in San Juan Capistrano. Get their pain perdu (call ahead and see if they have blackberry). Their duck hash is great, and their macaroni and cheese is sinful.
Also, see my review on Merhaba. Very tasty, especially if you like Indian food.
Now, back to work....
Complete agreement with you on Ruth Chris over Morton's.
If you are looking for a good Chinese food place, I'd recommend Martin Yan's SensAsian in the Irvine Marketplace on Jamboree. They're actually quite good and puts a Western twist on Chinese favorites. I'd recommend it over PF Chang's any day. Some notable dishes are the ying-yang shrimp, scallops in black bean sauce, ma po tofu and mongolian beef. When served family style, you Martin's carrot rice and white rice.
All the stuff I've been hearing about Sushi Shibucho is making me request it as a Christmas gift (in lieu of real presents) from my friends. Hopefully they get the hint.
I like Thai Kitchen in Irvine too. They're pretty consistent and good. Nevermind that it's not authentic, I still like it. If you want more authentic, try Thai Nakorn (as you might have already read in countless and breathless posts). They have a new location in Garden Grove, which I am dying to try.
Wow, thanks to both of you for the suggestions. I'm impressed!!!! BTW, my fiance and I live in the Oak Creek area, so we must live close by. We also frequent Pei Wei for Americanized Asian food and Pasta Pomodoro when we're in a rush for quick Italian. And I have to admit, I am a frequent visitor to Baja Fresh!
One more suggestion-for Greek we like Christakis in Tustin. Pretty good, though slightly expensive. My all-time favorite is Papadakis in San Pedro, but we rarely leave the Orange Curtain.
re: Irvine Munchy
I used to live in Oak Glen Apartments and also frequently go to the Gelson's plaza for Baja Fresh, Daphne's, and Maizuru for sushi and Japanese. Maizuru, I must say, is still my one of my all time faves for really good sushi rolls. Oak Creek was great since it is also close by to the Walnut and Jeffrey intersection, home of too-many-to-count places to nosh on Asian foods.
Now I live in East Irvine, near the Tustin and Irvine Marketplace...which thankfully, also has lots of good eats. To name a few; WaSa Sushi, Natraj (awesome Indian fast food), Thai Spice (consistent and cheap), the aforementioned SensAsian, and the usual chain restaurants.
I've been afraid to go to SensAsian, because the parking lot around it often looks empty, and because the Yan Can Cook ownership feels gimicky to me. Is it really worth the trip? Can you compare it to some of the other Chinese cuisine in the area? I'm Chinese American, so I'm finicky about Chinese food.
re: Irvine Munchy
I wouldn't hold it up against Sam Woo, Empress Pavillion, Ocean Star, NBC, or New Capital, or any authentic Chinese place (all of which I love). But if you come in expecting the type of food Westerners think Chinese food is, and then up it a little, I doubt you will be disappointed with what they serve at SensAsian. I, too, was reluctant, at first, so I came in expecting the worst. I just had one hope; that it was better than Pei Wei. And thankfully, it was; in every respect. The service is impeccable. The food is good. My white friends prefer it over Sam Woo in Irvine...but again, that isn't to say that it's better. I would go with non-Chinese friends first, who will most likely love it. This way, you won't lose credibility if your Chinese friends don't like it. Also, you'll get to judge, in front of people who don't have preconceived expectations of "authentic" Chinese food. Of course, if your white friends are Chowhounds as well, that makes all I've said moot. In any case, you'd be surprised how crowded it gets on most nights. The wait is actually longer than any restaurants around that area.
I've been several times, and I have enjoyed it every time EXCEPT ONCE. Usually, we get their #10 pho, with the raw beef slices put in the hot broth. The broth is tasty, especially when you add the right mix of the sauces (I like to get a few extra limes for added tang). We also get their fried spring rolls, wrap them up in lettuce and greens and dip them in the fish sauce with hot sauce added.
Unfortunately, the very last time we went, both my girlfriend and I got sick, so we have lost the desire to go there, at least for now.
Chance are you will *not* get sick, however.