Southern Spice features authentic flavors and authentic decor, including an Indian racing boat suspended from the ceiling and artifacts displayed on the walls.

Irvine’s foodie scene adds some spice

Southern Spice brings authentic Indian flavors to fast-casual dining

by Tom Berg

Irvine’s booming foodie scene offers exotic choices from around the globe: from Korean yakiniku to Mediterranean tabbouleh to Indian tandoori.

Enter Southern Spice Indian Kitchen, a little gem that recently brought old-world Indian spices to Irvine with a modern, quick-service approach. Co-owner Murali Kolapalli describes what to expect at his restaurant in Crossroads shopping center.

Why call your restaurant “Southern Spice”?

Southern Spice represents the most authentic culinary flavors from the south Indian regions of Andhra, Kerala, Chettinad, Mangalore and Hyderabad.

What’s your most popular dish?

A savory crepe made with rice and black lentil batter. It is a truly authentic South Indian item served with chutney and sambar (lentil soup).

Most exotic dish?

Meen Pollichathu hits the taste buds with a unique mix of flavors. It is a King fish smothered in a tangy spice mix consisting of shallots that are wrapped in banana leaves and shallow fried.

Guest favorites?

On weekdays, the guests enjoy “Spicy Hour” from 5 to 7 p.m. They get to taste $5 specials that are popular bar dishes in India: Apollo Fish (tossed in a spicy sauce, made crispy), Chicken Pepper Fry and the Chicken Sukka (dry item with shallots and cashews).

Tell us about your breads.

We offer 8 varieties of naans — Indian flat bread prepared at high heat inside a tandoor or a griddle. Garlic Naan, for its mild flavor, and the Malabar Paratha for its flaky, crispy texture are favorites.

What about your spices?

Most of our spices are sourced from Kerala, known as the “Spice Garden of India.”

Explain the décor.

We travelled to Southern India to bring back traditional furniture and artifacts. The boat (suspended from the ceiling) is our centerpiece, representing the traditional boat races held in Kerala. We also display artifacts from the kitchens of Tamil, Andhra, Telangana and Goa.

It looks classy but it’s casual dining?

Our mission is to provide the best possible food for the casual and active lifestyle of Californians. We provide a fine dining experience with a fast-casual appeal.