Hello Oakland: Juhu Beach Club
Part appetizer, part dessert, hard to resist.
These are what Preeti Mistry wished she had known about before she opened her own restaurant. It was an unexpected admission from a seasoned chef, and it disarmed the audience of mostly woman and five men.
I love the show Top Chef. But I watch it in fits and spurts because I don't have cable. When I met Preeti Mistry, at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee, a daylong conference celebrating woman and food, I had no idea she was Top-Chef famous. Preeti was included in a panel called, "How To Be an Unconventional Entreprenuer." Seated beside her were Jeni Britton Bauer (Jeni's Ice Cream), Martha Hoover (restauranteur in Indianapolis), and Jessamyn Rodriguez (Hot Bread Kitchen). The panel turned out to be one of my favorites of the day, and it was partly due to the candor of this chef.
The bullets that appear on Mistry's CV are as follows: Le Cordon Bleu graduate, Top Chef contestant, Google Chef, pop up entrepreneur and lastly, restaurateur. Her new place in the Temescal area of Oakland is called Juhu Beach Club. Before opening at this location it was a pop up in a liquor store in the Mission. I could have walked to both locations when I lived in San Francisco, but it took a plane to get me there.
A busy chef and her Sharpee.
Located in a strip mall the size of a treehouse, the restaurant is flanked by a Sprint PCS, a check cashing store and a Mexican joint. Across the street is a Walgreen's, and a busy entrance to the highway. It's like the least likely place to succeed. But when I was there, on a Friday afternoon, it only looked like a success. The walls are pink and orange, and intermittently covered in monkey wallpaper. There are also birdcages, industrial lights, a bicycle and, along a wall next to the kitchen, rows of large Ball filled with Indian spices.
Chicken salad with roasted root vegetables and sev.
We went for lunch. Preeti was working in the open kitchen so I waved and said hi. Alan and I looked over the menu and then ordered one of almost everything: three types of Pavs––the Indian version of a slider, a chicken salad, and chili. While we waited, sipping on white wine from a jar, we snacked on spicy and sweet popcorn. Have you noticed how big popcorn is right now? It's everywhere right now. From my POV, it's great for diabetics. It's high in fiber and low on carbs. Although this version isn't as good for me, because of the sugar content, this stuff should be bagged and sold.
Three types of Paves alongside some absolutely decadent french fries.
Our green chili chicken salad arrived on an oblong plate, with seasonal greens, roasted root veggies, and topped with crunchy sev (tiny crispy noodles). The best parts for me were the roasted vegetables, tiny slivers that looked like wrinkled ears they were oozing with flavor. Unfortunately while the elements of the salad were great, they lacked a dressing to pull it all together.
Meat on buns doesn't generally tempt me on a menu, but the pavs were amazing. We tried an egg salad, a lamb meatball and a pulled pork. They were smoky and soft and the egg buns are perfect. Mom's Guju Chili, slow-simmered moong dal, arrived in a deep bowl with a dollop of yogurt in the middle and and pickled red onions. The day was perhaps too warm for a dish like this, but the flavors were deep and intense--spicy without knocking you over. I could have spooned it over rice or a plate of veggies.
At this point I was done, but out came some wonderful soft-serve Strauss ice cream along with tiny silver bowls of toppings. Like the popcorn it was impossible to resist.
Strauss ice cream alongside bowls of do-it-yourself yum. Also, check out the awesome not-a-paper-plate paper plate!