Addicted to Adya
It’s almost enough to make a local feel unwelcome. But we’re not going to park twice, and we love grabbing a before- or after-show bite at the center, which has evolved tremendously as a dining destination in recent years. Some might remember when Chinatown was a go-to choice for Asian cuisine there, and Steelhead Brewery was a big deal (bonus points if you remember the name of the nightclub that once raged at what was then called The Marketplace).
With the recent opening of Adya, a fast-casual spot offering a contemporary take on authentic Indian street food, the temptation to dine and then dash across the Ray Watson Pedestrian Bridge is even greater.
The original Adya is one of our favorite spots at the Anaheim Packing House, a super cool food hall housed in a converted citrus packing facility built circa 1919. The architecture and aesthetics at the second Adya can’t really compete with the first, but the culinary experience can.
Chef Shachi Mehra, who co-owns the restaurant with Sandeep Basrur, was the opening chef at Tamarind of London, an upscale Indian restaurant in Newport Coast that never quite lived up to the hype of its Michelin-star origin that was so strongly touted during its PR campaigns.
But Mehra, who left Tamarind within a year or so of its opening, always had her fans, and her reputation has soared with Adya. The new location is a hit with UCI students and professors, Irvine’s significant Indian population, as well as the financial whizzes at PIMCO, who are known to order lunches to be delivered to their shiny Newport Center skyscraper several times a week.
The chaat, curry and puri at Irvine’s Adya are all made with fresh and sustainable meat and produce, which is apparent upon a first taste. The chicken dishes, especially those cooked in the Tandoori ovens, are moist and flavorful. For those looking to grab something on the go, we suggest the delicious kaathi rolls, classic street food from Kolkata, which are basically Indian wraps.
Though they’re not nearly as neat eating as the Kaathi rolls, our go-to choice at Adya are still the pavs, which the menu smartly describes as Bombay-style sloppy joes. Like pretty much all of the choices on the menu, there are veg and non-veg options. But we prefer to be “baaaad,” and always order the lamb keema pav, which features a spicy, Masala-like ground meat mix on a delicious brioche bun.
The drinks at the Irvine location are limited to a delicious mango lassi, traditional Masala Chai and a variety of artisan sodas, but sadly there is no beer or wine, as at the Anaheim location.
Now about that parking problem: we think Irvine Co. should build a parking structure for the office tower, with the first floors restricted to tenants, with the top floors open to center visitors. Charge whatever the market will bear (but more than the UCI structures to discourage students from taking all the spaces), with the first two hours free with validation from a store at the center, and three hours for those who do dinner and a movie… or a show across the street! Hey, the center wouldn’t exist without UCI, so how about kindly adjusting the antagonistic attitude?