Five years ago, this address was all about the beer when Evans Brewing Co. debuted a slick retool. I didn’t realize it was gone until Miirch Social quietly opened in the space in November. Though it looks mostly unchanged, the aromas make it clear that today, it’s all about the spice.
Downtown Fullerton is rebounding nicely from last year’s covid contraction: The sound of laughing brunchers and cheering fans echoes about the alleys and parking lots once more. Miirch Social is a good fit here.
The small kitchen and handsome 16-stool bar churn out an impressive menu of made-to-
order options. The cocktail lineup alone is daunting, but start there anyway because you’ll need fortification for decision-making. A dozen taps allow room for some unusual players, but it’s a shame no hyper-local brews appear here, given that some are minutes away. Signature drinks are ingenious and precisely executed. The mezcal Manhattan surprises with a perfect balance of spice, sweet, and smoke. My gin-only friend fell for his Tarabooj martini despite its flashy components of saffron, watermelon, and orange bitters. I suggest buffering said booze with snacky bites such as the fiery gunpowder hummus or crushed samosas with tamarind glaze. Next visit, I’m ordering the freshly griddled kulcha (flatbread) with cheddar and jalapeno.
Sensing a theme yet? Miirch is not your 2019 buffet lunch Indian joint. Founder Jesse Singh’s passion project is a relaxed haunt that leans modern. Most items are traditional dishes tweaked with global ingredients, or Indian flavors applied to popular non-Indian fare. Think butter chicken paneer poutine, onion and gorgonzola naan, or nine-spice tandoori wings. Sidhant Sehgal (once of Beverly Hills’ Spice Affair) is executive chef, commandeering an open kitchen with no place to hide. Sit close for a free show. Long banquettes beg for small groups, but for the solo diner, check out the muted vintage movie behind the bartender. Last time it was “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Asking a server for advice is always dicey. It’s one thing to ask about something relatively objective, say serving size, as in “Will this dish serve two or three?” But venturing into a subjective area is fraught. So what a delight to learn the biryani truly is best with lamb, just as the waiter suggested. The marinated chopped lamb imbues the fluffy basmati rice with savory notes the chicken can’t match. A lid of dough bakes to a crust that, when cracked open, releases a rush of aromas—cardamom, turmeric, cloves, chiles—from the steamy layers of colorful rice, meat, and aromatics. This is a great rendition that goes with almost anything else on the menu. Long-simmered black dal (lentils) are complex and sumptuously rich. Vegetarian and gluten-free folks, this is for you. So is the smashing gobhi bezule, crispy, batter-fried cauliflower sauteed with mustard seeds and coconut milk. The rising popularity of cauliflower creates waves of copycat recipes, but this is one to order when you are weary of cauliflower pizza crust or roasted florets in buffalo sauce.
I like that this versatile all-day menu goes as light as the vivid mango avocado arugula berry salad with toasted almonds in a sweet-zesty dressing that pairs well with an icy, spicy lemonade. And that it tilts robust with a red curry rogan josh loaded with fennel in a saucy gravy that demands a side of lofty, slender-grained rice. Follow the comfort food curry with the rich, house-made cheesecake with a crust of Parle G tea cookies in lieu of graham crackers.
Mashups can fall flat, but at Miirch Social they soar. Much credit goes to the discerning kitchen and clever beverage agenda. Add great pricing and welcoming service, and there’s every reason flavor fiends should become fast friends with Miirch Social.
138 W. Commonwealth Ave.
5 BEST DISHES
Appetizers, $8 to $15
Entrees, $12 to $20
Drinks, $6 to $14
Miirch is Hindi for spice or green chile.