At LA’s CaliChilli, a Chef With MICHELIN Cred Melds American Classics With Creative Indian Twists

CaliChilli is lauded chef Manjunath Mural's first U.S. restaurant.

After 16 years at MICHELIN-starred Singapore restaurant Song of India, acclaimed chef Manjunath Mural was ready for a change. His work consistently garnered the Singapore spot a MICHELIN star, but after years of leading a fine-dining kitchen and being lauded for his efforts in melding Southeast Asian and Indian recipes, Mural was looking for something more casual.  Enter CaliChilli, which debuted in Long Beach in May and is Mural’s first stateside project. 

The idea behind CaliChilli was to bring world-class, MICHELIN-grade comfort food to Los Angeles,” says Mural. “It’s unpretentious and modern. Our guests describe it as the best of all worlds.”

A lobster dish with a yellow sauce at CaliChilli

The lobster moilee at CaliChilli .Photo credit: Slique Media

At CaliChilli, Mural is taking on American comfort fare, incorporating Indian and Southeast Asian flavors into his creations. Take for instance the restaurant’s pot pie, which features charred chicken in a tomato sauce flavored with cardamom, star anise, and ginger, among other ingredients, under a flaky puff pastry top. The lasagna comes with eggplant that’s roasted in a clay oven, mashed and then layered with paneer, the Indian cottage cheese.

All of the food at CaliChilli is shareable and some of the smaller, snackier items include crispy cauliflower fritters served alongside a fiery sambal paste aioli, and a chicken tikka plate topped with parmesan cheese and truffle oil, the restaurant’s signature dish. Sides like kulcha—a type of flatbread—stuffed with spicy chorizo and Wisconsin cheddar cheese, and saffron rice round out the menu.

The cross-cultural approach extends to the brunch menu with highlights including waffles served with a coconut chutney and a naan wrap stuffed with bacon, lettuce, tomato jam, and a mint aioli. The menu will change every six months with Mural continuing to bring new twists to American classics. 

The interior of the restaurant CaliChilli

CaliChilli seats 58 people inside along outdoor seating in a garden. Photo credit: Slique Media

The restaurant space was designed to evoke the laidback Long Beach vibe and Mural describes it as “modern yet cozy.” Interior designer Saurabh Josh has infused the 58-seat restaurant with floral motifs throughout including in the light fixtures and the fabric of the chairs, all inspired by Indian floral ornamental patterns. In addition to the interior space, which features casual wooden tables and booths, and 10 black leather stools at the bar, there’s an outdoor seating area located in the restaurant’s garden.  “A quiet location where one can spend some quality time after a busy day in the city was what we were looking for,” says Mural. “We chose Long Beach in particular because it’s in the middle of Orange County and Los Angeles and a comfortable drive from both sides.”.

CaliChilli is open for lunch 11:30 am to 2:30pm Tuesday through Friday, brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm,  and dinner 5 pm to 9 pm Tuesday through Thursday, and 5 pm to 10 pm Friday and Saturday.

Kristin Braswell is a journalist and founder of CrushGlobal Travel, a company that customizes travel guides and authentic experiences around the world.