There’s something about a barbecue that sets aflame a communal hunger for blackened protein pulled from a crackling fire. But you don’t need a backyard grill to sate the craving. Consider these restaurant dishes, pulled from an Indian tandoor, the cylindrical oven used to cook a genre of meals that emerge from the superheated depths with a satisfying char.
Clay Oven in Irvine is an upmarket ode to the creativity of Indian cooking, particularly all things tandoori. There is, of course, tandoori chicken, its skin branded with char. But there’s also tandoor-smoked baby back ribs, plump tandoori prawns, right, and finely cooked tandoori lamb chops, which chef-owner Geeta Bansal prepared at New York’s James Beard House in September. There’s even swordfish, which is notoriously difficult to prepare without reducing it to a desiccated disaster. But Clay Oven does it right—flaky, supremely flavorful, and lightly singed.
It can be difficult to weave your way through the throngs at Anaheim Packing House, but Adya is where you want to be. The restaurant serves Indian street food for the Instagram set: all manner of artfully plated chaat and other snacks fit for the food hall’s stylish setting. Still, the cornerstone of Adya is probably its tandoor, which produces good naan and even better tandoori chicken seasoned with paprika, fenugreek, and chile.
India Grill is the Everyman’s Indian restaurant, with a robust lunch buffet and an equally sizeable a la carte menu. But even if you’re here for the butter chicken or the lamb korma, make sure to add an order of tandoori shrimp. It arrives sputtering and hissing on a cast-iron platter, the shrimp taut, firm, and coated in spice. As with virtually everything cooked in a tandoor, the dish sings of summer.
NOTHING BEATS the heat better than ice cream. At Clay Oven, cap your meal with an order of
kulfi, the spiced Indian ice cream. Here, it’s infused with cardamom, pistachios, and saffron, an Indian
trinity that imparts a faintly floral flavor. The ice cream is a sweet reward after Clay Oven’s fiery hot sauce.
15435 Jeffrey Road, Irvine,
440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim
5373 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos