New Chefs, Enriched Eateries Offer Fresh Opportunities
Fifi Chao – Columnist
Click to Read the Entire Article on ocbj.com ( new page will open )
I chose Royal Khyber as the Restaurant of the Year a long time ago, and if I were doing one of those special supplements right now, I would be tempted to repeat that designation. It is, you see, one of the best ethnic restaurants in our midst.
We love Indian food and have eaten at most of the Indian restaurants in this country and tried some in London, the home away from India for authentic cuisine of that genre. I like some of the things at various OC restaurants, but overall right now, Royal Khyber wins the prize for our palates and it’s sense of serenity and beauty.
I’ve now lost count of the number of non-Indian friends who thought they didn’t like Indian food and completely changed their minds after I introduced them to the finesse of the food at Royal Khyber. A big joke is about one group of about a dozen people I took to the restaurant, insisting it would change their minds. They fell head over heals in love with the food, and now it’s on their priority list all the time.
Many of the same dishes appear on every Indian restaurant menu, but that doesn’t mean they taste the same. And there are specialities of course, like Khyber’s Nectar, which is chef/owner Arun Puri’s lamb shanks, a truly secret recipe that results in the lamb cooked to perfection after 14 hours over the lowest possible heat.
It’s been enthusiastically called an aphrodisiac by others-I simply say it’s addictive. Another version of lamb is Rogan Josh, a well-known Indian classic emanating from Kashmir. It features a predominance of aromatic spices and browned onions mingling with cubed lamb.
You should know that the spices used in Indian food are quite healthful, and when handled with the respect Arun gives them, it’s a new day in eating what’s good for you that tastes delicious at the same time.
Butter Chicken, high on my repeat list, is one of Northern India’s renowned dishes, with a sleek blend of cream, butter and tomatoes in an aromatic sauce. Lobster Tail with carom seeds and a similar sauce is nirvana for me. I indulge in vegetable dishes quickly cooked with paneer, a home made cheese cut in to cubes. Warm Eggplant Salad with chat masala dressing-a spice powder mix; fresh Fish Tikka from the tandoori oven; Fish Malabar with mustard fennel; and Curried Mussels are also dishes likely to appear on my table.
The menu is fairly extensive. A wide variety of lunch plates on weekdays offer a way to taste two or three things at a time. There’s an impressive lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. You can taste chicken, fish, and an array of vegetable and side dishes for one price. The buffet brunch has another fine selection of foods during the same hours on Sunday.
There are least 10 kinds of naan-terrific tandoori-baked breads, plain or imbued with meat, cheese, olives and more. I could make a meal of these alone. Well, perhaps and order of Arun’s addictive mango chutney would also be likely.
I like that it has a full bar and a wine list very well suited to its cuisine.
I have about a dozen places that are my all-time favorites, restaurants that call to me over and over again. Royal Khyber is one of them. The food takes me to the top of my happy scale, and the beautiful, exotic surroundings deliver the finest version of relaxation.
1621 W. Sunflower Ave. in South Coast Plaza Village, Santa Ana, (714) 436-1010