When I asked the person I was dining with what he thought of the food, he responded, “If I stop eating, my mouth will be on fire,” referring to Godavari’s fiery fusion of Indo-Chinese flavors.
While most Indian restaurants specialize in Northern Indian dishes, Godavari features spiced Southern Indian cuisine, cooking up a menu of signature plates from across India—including street food and vibrant specialties native to the Indian city Kolkata and parts of Mumbai.
As you walk in, you’re welcomed into what feels like an elegant hotel lobby by smiling staff. The sprawling dining hall is filled with tables for various party sizes to accommodate the lunch buffet (available seven days a week, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) and grand weekend buffet (noon-3 p.m.). With 33 varieties of South Indian dishes, both are a great way to sample an assortment of flavors.
The dinner menu is an encyclopedia of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian à la carte plates served family-style. Munch on complimentary papadum (crisp Indian wafers made from lentils) served with tamarind and mint chutney as you work your way through the menu. A great starter is rasam idly (a.k.a. idli), a soft and pillowy steamed rice-and-lentil cake drowned in rasam, a south Indian curry soup made with tamarind, tomatoes, pepper, cumin, garlic and lentils. This dish, along with chicken lollipops (marinated chicken wings deep-fried, then sautéed with herbs and spices) and malai kofta (handmade dumplings stuffed with cheese, carrots, cashews, potatoes and herbs, then cooked in rich curry and almond cream sauce) are great for sharing.
Godavari also offers a variety of biryani. Choose the hyderabadi mutton dum—mutton and rice slow-cooked, dum-style (steaming the layers of meat and rice in a pot sealed with dough)—for aromatic flavor; it’s served with raita and coconut-curry sauce. The konaseema royyala biryani’s fluffy, long-grain rice conceals plump shrimp in a spicy masala gravy—mix it all together for the perfect bite.
For layers of umami, order the Szechuan-style chitoor Chinese noodles, which incorporates fiery red chicken, Chinese broccoli, dried chiles, red chile paste and homemade egg noodles. (Be ready to suddenly have the sniffles!) The Shanghai chilli paneer is another great Indo-Chinese option: Indian cottage cheese cooked with Chinese sauces, sautéed onions and cashew nuts.
By the time you’re done eating, the capsaicin should have fully kicked in, so we recommend ending your meal with a mango lassi to tame the warmth from Godavari’s menu. Godavari’s spice-fueled ode to Indian classics, complete with complex flavors, textures and spice, hurts so good.
Godavari, 24416 Muirlands Blvd., Lake Forest, (949) 273-3327; www.godavarius.com.