Vishnu - Irvine
Vishnu is one of those places you want to keep to yourself for as long as you can. It is, without question, the smallest, most inconveniently located Indian lunch buffet in OC with barely enough room for a dozen people. And it's only open until 3 p.m. on weekdays.
If you know about it, it's because someone else brought you here or tipped you off to its unlikely existence in a business park underneath the landing path of John Wayne-bound planes.
No matter what, when you finally find it, you feel as though you are one of a select few humans lucky enough to know the secret. And once you're there, you immediately feel protective of it. If there were a map, you'd swallow it.
But then again, Vishnu is just too good not to share. Brekkie Fan tipped me off and, in turn, I paid it forward--I told the person who has a column dedicated to spreading the word on places like this: my editor Gustavo Arellano.
As he said in his This-Hole-in-the-Wall-Life review, the place is a gem and the food is unexpectedly and unapologetically authentic, even if it were found in the center of Artesia's Little India instead of Irvine.
The base of the $7 lunch buffets are the biryanis--there are two kinds, one with chicken, another vegetarian, both shotgunned with spices. There are curries, some creamy, some spicy, some both. There are nuclear-strength chutneys that burned a hole through my esophagus; others that cooled it off like salve. There are vadas, crispy golden-fried fritters that are similar to falafel. There's baigan barta, a thick eggplant curry that I scooped up with some crispy-bubbled naan.
And of course, because the owner used to cook at Dosa Place, there are dosas, delicate Indian crepes filled with spiced potato, made fresh and served scalding hot , one-by-one to everyone dining in.
When I looked up after feasting, I discovered the line had snaked out the door. The place was now standing room only. Some secrets, it seems, are too good to be kept secret for long.
Vishnu Restaurant & Catering
17945 Sky Park Circle Ste. J
Irvine, CA 92614
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