Aria Kitchen, which is now open in Irvine, introduces a new fusion to Orange County’s dining landscape as it melds Mexican and Persian cuisine. Two sisters, Mahta and Anahita Ariarad, second-generation restaurateurs with deep ties to the Irvine community are behind the opening of Aria Kitchen. With the opening of their second restaurant, the Ariarad sisters draw inspiration from their Persian heritage to create dishes that embrace their love for Mexican cuisine.
In 2020, the Ariarad sisters opened their first restaurant Irvine Grill, which focuses on Persian dishes and heirloom recipes their family has passed down for generations. However, their involvement in the restaurant industry stems back to early childhood. For as long as they can remember, the sisters have worked in her father’s Super Irvine, a market dedicated to sourcing Persian and international ingredients since 1996. Before Super Irvine closed in 2022, the market served as a pillar of the community for Persian immigrants for more than 25 years, many of whom did not speak English.
“It was magical to see how my father’s market gave both immigrants and locals a sense of belonging and connection. That feeling of connecting people became the driving force behind our desire to get into the restaurant industry,” commeants Mahta Ariarad, who began operating the café inside of her father’s market in 2016 in a statement. “With the opening of Aria Kitchen, we aim to foster that sense of connection, while expanding cultural horizons.”
The menu at Aria Kitchen offers a fusion of Mexican and Persian cuisines. While the concept is the first of its kind in Orange County, the menu is nothing new to the Ariarads.
“I wrote the menu for this restaurant seven years ago,” adds Mahta. “In Southern California, there is an abundance of authentic Mexican cuisine; it’s my favorite thing to eat. I wanted to create halal Mexican cuisine, giving family, friends, and the Muslim community we served at Super Irvine the opportunity to enjoy the rich staples of Mexican cuisine. The menu became a fusion of halal Persian meats and spices woven into the approachable classics of Mexican cuisine.”
Aria Kitchen’s menu has Mexican classics uniquely prepared with halal meats, Persian spices and sauces, and Mediterranean ingredients. Starters include a trio of Empanadas featuring beef and barberry, pulled chicken, and curried potatoes, served with a chipotle yogurt dip; and Chicken Flautas topped with labneh, feta, and za’atar pico. Entrée selections include a Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank Burrito served wet with red or green sauce and drizzled with labneh; and mesquite-grilled Shrimp Kabobs with mushrooms. Family-style dining is encouraged with shareable items like the Taco Flight, which offers guests a selection of eight tacos, including options like beef birria, New Zealand lamb, fried or grilled fish, and mesquite-grilled rib-eye. During lunch, guests can enjoy Lunch Bowl renditions of dinner entrees including, filet mignon kebobs with chimichurri, Scottish salmon with pomegranate sauce, and slow-cooked lamb shank with birria sauce.
Weekend brunch offers sweet and savory dishes including, French Toast topped with berries and saffron-orange cream, Chilaquiles with house-made tortilla chips labneh, avocado, and salsa verde; and a lavish Persian Breakfast Platter (serving two or four) complete with tea service featuring an assortment of items including hardboiled eggs, sujuk sausage, labneh and honey, olives and more.
Specialty cocktails highlight Persian ingredients like watermelon, mint, and saffron. Saffron, a Persian spice worth more than its weight in gold, graces several specialty cocktails at Aria Kitchen including spirit-forward sips like the Silk Road Negroni, and the light and refreshing Saffron Spritz. Margarita classics like the Cadillac, Tamarindo, and jalapeño-infused Spicy are among nearly a dozen margarita selections. Guests looking to elevate their experience will enjoy The Don, a tableside-crafted margarita featuring Don Julio 1942. Desserts offer inter-cultural indulgences like Baklava and Saffron Ice Cream or a rich Tres Leches cake.
The menu isn’t the only thing the Ariarads have been planning for years, they’ve had their sights set on Aria Kitchen’s location for years, offering to purchase it from the former tenant in 2016. The sisters designed the 6000-square-foot restaurant to embody elegance and natural elements like greenery and stone. An illuminated onyx bar top, open kitchen, and luxe green booths embank the perimeters, encompassing a central dining room and dedicated bar seating. Outside, a covered patio offers alfresco seating for 62.
Aria Kitchen is located off Jamboree in Irvine (2636 Dupont) and is open daily for breakfast at 8 a.m. and will also offer lunch, and dinner. Weekend brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 9 a.m.