Thursday, May 05, 2005

Niki's Indian Food - Santa Ana

Here's a place that I was bound to try sooner or later. It is after all, just a block away from work for me and perhaps the nearest Indian food place in the South Coast area that isn't Royal Khyber (not that I have a problem with Royal Khyber...just that it's a little too expensive and fancy for a workaday lunch). I could be wrong here, there is probably another Indian joint somewhere around the Santa Ana and Costa Mesa border. In any case, I wasn't expecting greatness from this place, just good, cheap grub. Maybe some basmati rice, some tandoori chicken, for no more than a few bucks.

I got what I expected, no more, no less. The restaurant itself is surprisingly large, with a dining room that was easily the same size as India Cook House in Irvine, except with cheap white plastic lawn chairs, equally cheap vinyl tablecloths, minimal lighting, stark white walls, and the weirdly noticeable absence of Indian mood music.

As soon as I entered, I was in a small line with other South Coast office drones, each of us still wearing our dangling ID badges. This line led up to counter with a small row of steam tables which were attended to by a pair of hispanic ladies. As each docker-wearing patron's turn was up, one of two of the servers would ask "For here or to go?" If you said "to go", your food will be put into styrofoam containers, the kind with a flip-top. Say "for here" and it's a styrofoam plate for you. Each lunch meal consisted of a scoop or two of yellow basmati rice. Actually, it seemed as though the rice wasn't basmati at all, but regular jasmine rice rendered yellow with turmeric. The rice was clumpy, which wouldn't happen had it been actual basmati. Then it's up to you what you wanted as the entree to go with it.

I opted for the Express Meal #1 ($3.50), which turned out to be a single leg of tandoori chicken, the rice, salad or raita, and a piece of naan. The salad was really just a heap of shredded cabbage marinated in vinegar. The naan wasn't crispy since it came out of a heap from steam table tray. And the rice was clumpy, as I previously mentioned. But the chicken leg was surprisingly tasty. With burnt edges and the marinade penetrating deep into the flesh, I looked like a primal beast, gnawing it while my fellow cubicle brethren dunked naan into styrofoam cups of curry.

There's nothing particularly special about Niki's, but as far as an alternative to Jack-in-the-Box and Subway, it ain't bad.

Niki's Indian Food
(714) 850-0595
3705 S Bristol St
Santa Ana, CA 92704


At 3:32 PM, Blogger Avatar said...

You should try Mother India, on Baker/Bristol, in a tiny strip behind Wahoo's. It's Indian food's best kept secret in OC, so try to keep it that way. ;-)

The food there is amazing. Their saag paneer is to die for, and they have better popadums than Royal Khyber. Also, always ask for extra tamarind sauce.

My only gripe is that because they cook fully to order, it may take a litle while longer than you're used to. I suggest going with a group, having some wine, and burning through a slew of tasty appetizers.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, Niki's is no more. It closed down several months ago.

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reviewer showed more ignorance than any knowledge of Indian food. Niki's was a treasure, and I miss it. Alas, it has turned into a "Mexican" chain.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


It's true. And you are absolutely right. I'm very ignorant when it comes to Indian food.

But it doesn't take a degree in Indian food to know that I've had better Indian food elsewhere. Royal Khyber, Dosa Place, India Cook House, Anarkali (in LA) to name a few.

Where would an expert on the cuisine of India like yourself go, now that Niki's is gone?

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Ruppee Room in Orange on the Corner of Katella & Tustin is excellent. Authentic Indian last time my husband and I went there were were the only non-indians in the place!

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Niki's at 2031 E 1st Street, Santa Ana, CA 92705 is still open. New management, too. They upscaled the decor. Few owners are very friendly and happy to answer any questions. The food is close to the original Niki's -- and in fact better and the menu is expanded. If you call ahead, they will have your food ready for you for pick up. Also if you make prior arrangements, they will be open just for your special event even after hours or on their only closed day, Sunday. (Can't say that for other restaruants.) -- LR in Santa Ana.

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Niki's has been there for so long because it's so good - clumpy rice and all....that's what makes it so freak'n delish. The way I see it, it's not that it has to be the best, it's good because it's different and unique.

At 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And can I find there some foods like these Indian food recipes?

At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Niki's Indian food was ok in a pinch. But compared to most Indian restaurants their food was very subpar. I think for people who aren't big Indian food enthusiasts it would pass.

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Niki was a treasure on Bristol, BUT just learned that the original Niki is still open located at 2031 E. 1st St. Santa Ana. Yahoo! Same awesome food, same funky service! See you there!


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