When husband and wife, Vikram Bhambri, a Dell vice president, and Anu Bhambri, a former Microsoft senior software engineer, moved to San Jose from Seattle, they scoured the Peninsula for nine months, searching for a location to open their first Bay Area restaurant.
But the perfect locale actually turned out to be in San Francisco, which is where the couple, who also has restaurants in India, opened the modern-Indian Rooh in 2016. That was followed in quick succession by Rooh locations in Chicago and Columbus.
Now, finally in 2020, the Bhambri’s original dream has come true with the opening of Rooh Palo Alto — in a big way.
It is the first of their restaurants to focus on live-fire cooking. In fact, it boasts a 13-foot-long custom grill, smoker and rotisserie. The Bhambris believe it’s the first apparatus in an Indian restaurant in the world. It can be admired behind glass from the dining room, as chickens rotate over the fire and whole pineapples hang overhead, turning soft and caramelized.
Downtown Los Gatos has never been a stronghold of ethnic cuisines, so it was a welcome sight to see North open its doors last summer.
Named for its location on North Santa Cruz Avenue, this lovely restaurant serves contemporary Vietnamese cuisine with California influences. It’s a collaboration between two veteran restaurateurs: Hanna Pham, who for years had 19 Market in downtown San Jose; and John Le, who had the popular Three Seasons in downtown Palo Alto.
From all appearances, it’s already a hit in the community. The warm dining room, done up with a mural of a Vietnamese woman in a traditional ao dai, antique mirrors, reclaimed wood, and a wall of living plants, was packed the night my friends and I dined in December, paying our own tab at the end.
Start with one of the fun cocktails, such as the Non La ($15), a play on a gin sour. The chic coupe is a study in green from the house-infused matcha gin blended with yellow chartreuse, orgeat, and lemon. Its frothy top is made of foaming bitters. A gold-hued turmeric-ginger tincture is poured atop through a stencil to recreate the restaurant’s logo, which on the drink almost looks like a pair of puckery lips. It’s an elegant drink that/s tangy, grassy, citrusy and delicious.
LAS VEGAS, NV —
In the city that never sleeps, one can do major damage even if it’s only
a 48-hour trip, and ostensibly to take in a Lady Gaga show. But one
still has to eat, right? And boy, did my husband and I do just that.
Flock & Fowl
If you’ve never ventured beyond The Strip, you owe it to yourself to take a trek downtown. It’s arguably the city’s hippest neighborhood, with bold murals spanning two to three stories high on the sides of buildings, tongue-in-cheek sayings adorning old motel marquees, and a range of show-stopping public arts pieces.
Case in point, the Big Rig Jig at the Fergusons Downtown, an old motel that has been transformed into a venue of small local boutiques and eateries. The Big Rig Jig looks like something straight out of a “Transformers” movie. Composed of two massive tanker trucks bent and curved into an inexplicable “S,” it’s confounding, perplexing, and just plain amazing.
Forget any ifs, ands or buts, because this, my friends, is the tastiest chicken soup you’ll ever slurp up.
The kind that makes your eyes widen in unexpected pleasure from the first spoonful. The kind that boasts layers upon layers of deep, full, satisfying flavor. The kind that nourishes and comforts no matter if you’re ailing or just in need of something wonderfully warming.
The secret is that the chicken in the soup first gets roasted. In fact, the entire soup is mostly made in the oven, concentrating the flavors and leaving the chicken as tender and moist as your favorite rotisserie bird.
“Limon Omani Oven-Roasted Chicken Soup with Celery Seeds” may have a long name with an ingredient or two that may give you pause. But don’t let that put you off from what is essentially a quite easy recipe that delivers more than you’d ever expect.
So many places opened in 2019; and so many places closed. Be it astronomical housing costs to an extremely tight labor pool and the rising price of ingredients, the Bay Area remains a challenging landscape for restaurants.
Still, they somehow manage to put their best forward day in and day out. Here are my favorite eats of the year (in no particular order) — the ones I still dream about, and the ones I’d race back for in a heartbeat. Enjoy! And cheers to even more delicious morsels in 2020.