Thali plate for the agesEXPAND
Thali plate for the ages
Photo by The Mexican

Namaste in Aliso Viejo Is the Only OC Restaurant to Specialize in the Veggie Cuisine of Gujarat

There are office-park restaurant gems, and then there's Namaste, which sits hidden in Pacific Park Plaza in Aliso Viejo. No, seriously, it's hidden: I finally parked and walked around to try to find the Indian restaurant, then realized it was right in front of me all along, with a shiny-window exterior and a sign that made it resemble a Kumon. And even when you go inside, you might be tricked by the artwork for sale on the wall, the Indian clothing on racks and packaged food into thinking it's a yoga studio.

But it's actually the best Indian restaurant in South County, the only one in OC to specialize in the cuisine of Gujarat, a coastal state in western India from which comes the family of The Log editor (and Weekly friend) Parimal Rohit. It's a state where vegetarianism prevails, so don't come to Namaste expecting tandoor anything. But the servings are so generous here you'll be fuller than if you ate a tureen of goat vindaloo all by yourself.

Lunchtime is all about the thali, the original combo plate. For $8, you get the entrée of the day (be happy if it's the tawa pulao, which is like tomato-based biryani), your choice of three vegetable dishes, a side (go with the cooling raita) and a fluffy slice of naan. Vegetarian options vary by day, but usually bounce between lentils, mung or garbanzo beans, potatoes, and tofu. It doesn't matter: They're all so savory you won't even need any chutney. Eschew the samosas and have the dhokla, which resembles subcontinental cornbread but is far better: made from a fermented batter of rice flour, it's fluffy and slightly sour—perfect.

Gorge on lunch, then return for the dinner, when the offerings are akin to a Mumbai street food affair. Vada pav is basically a fried-potato slider—carb away! Ragda patties are even better, potato patties slathered in a tomato curry. And so much more—so check it out! End with saffron yogurt—after this, you'll never eat Chobani again. Just don't get lost like I did!

Namaste, 27131 Aliso Creek Rd., Ste. 150, Aliso Viejo, (949) 446-8500;


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