Soon after it opened about six years ago, I visited Tandoori Fresh. Nothing about the shopping-plaza restaurant impressed me: bland food, bad service, bad prices, bad date—it was an unmitigated disaster. I rarely gave it a second thought as the years passed, except to scrunch my face whenever its memory came up.
I made a similarly sour face when Parimal Rohit recently invited me there. He's the new editor of the Weekly's sister paper, The Log, which covers everything boating in Southern California. P-Mo is a good guy and knows his food—so I was shocked he wanted to visit Tandoori Fresh. But it was his birthday lunch, so off we went. Once we entered the restaurant, though, I became more excited than him.
“They have karahi?!” I nearly shouted upon reading the menu on the wall, as P-Mo laughed. It's a classic Pakistani dish, oily and spicy and taken to volcanic levels thanks to ginger, and you usually only see it in Pakistani restaurants, of which there aren't nearly enough in OC. But Tandoori Fresh had transformed over time into an Indian-Pakistani place, a spot where you could get your chicken tikka masala as easily as you could nihari, Pakistan's iconic dish of a beef shank with a spice level of H-bomb. We ordered a couple of plates and appetizers, and I busted out my wallet. “No need to pay right now, sir,” the register guy said. “Just sit down, and we'll take care of you.”
Great service! And the rest of the lunch went splendidly—so well, in fact, that I've returned a couple of times since, plowing through the menu—the luscious seekh kebab, the fluffy biryanis, the fabulous haleem (essentially a savory pudding). I'm not sure what changed—or maybe nothing had, and I really had an off day in 2010—but the Tandoori Fresh promise of offering subcontinental food for the masses hits all the time now. The dishes will please desis and non-Indians alike, with spice levels ratcheted up or down accordingly. Portions are huge, prices reasonable, and any place that sells housemade mango ice cream deserves an Indus River of compliments.
Tandoori Fresh, 1500 Adams Ave., Ste. 100A, Costa Mesa, (714) 444-4407; www.tandoorifresh.com.