The first thing you’ll notice when you step through the doors of new Temescal restaurant Juhu Beach Club is that, juxtaposed with wildly beautiful floral-and-macaque-themed wallpaper, the walls of the restaurant are pink.

Like, hella pink.

Not a demure cotton candy shade of pink – a bright, lipstick-worthy shade, a pink that declares itself in the style of M.I.A. or Gwen Stefani, with a dose of attitude and awesome.

To give credit where credit is due, the interior decorating comes courtesy of chef and owner Preeti Mistry’s partner. Mistry wields her formidable talent in the kitchen, where these days she spends her time making chutney, grinding spices and gaining practice in making samosa dough without having to think about it. And aside from the pink, Mistry herself is an immediately noticeable presence, moving around on busy nights like a very practiced Tasmanian Devil with a faux hawk.

Juhu Beach Club serves fare inspired by Indian street food – particularly the street food available at the restaurant’s namesake, Juhu Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Mumbai. The single-page menu is straightforward: It starts with $4-$8 savory appetizers and a $5 selection of slider-style sandwiches called pavs, then moves on to a shortlist of soups, salads and $12-$14 curries. JBC is where you might go if you want to share a hearty tapas-style mix of intense flavors and textures – or if you’re opting for a lighter street food-style dinner.

“In terms of the menu, it’s really about inspiration from all over India,” Mistry said. “Either the flavors are distinctly Indian or the technique is distinctly Indian, but I don’t think there are really any rules beyond that.”

The “Desi Jacks,” for example, are Mistry’s Indian-flavored interpretation of Cracker Jacks, a curried popcorn elevated with peanuts and pistachios, then sweetened and globbed together with caramel. The Bombay Sandwich is a good ol’ fashioned pressed grilled cheese sandwich dressed up with cilantro chutney, beets, potatoes, pickled red onions and chaat masala. (There’s also a kids’ menu grilled cheese pav incorporating, amazingly, high-end American cheese for those of us who feel nostalgic.)

Not to be missed is the vada pav – a pav loaded with spiced fried potato puff, pickled red onion and heat courtesy of ghost pepper chutney. It’s Mistry’s version of one of the most well-known of Indian street foods. According to Mistry, vada pav didn’t exist while her mother was growing up in India; it’s a newer street food phenomenon whose popularity is now unparalleled, and its evolution is in line with Mistry’s own interest in creating new, interesting combinations out of flavors and techniques grounded in the traditional tried-and-true.

“I realized I wanted to do something different,” Mistry said. “I was at Google when I did ‘Top Chef’ and I was really bored with cooking at a cafeteria. It’s the coolest cafeteria in the country, but still – you’re kinda cooking the same stuff every day.”

Oh, here’s where I should clarify that Mistry was a contestant on season six of Bravo’s “Top Chef.” (It’s true. You can see her bio here.) At the time of “Top Chef,” she was working for Bon Appetit Management Company, a sustainable restaurant company that installed Mistry as Executive Chef at, by turns, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, Acme Bread Company and finally Google, where she helmed the largest cafeteria on the Google Headquarters’ campus.

Mistry ultimately decided that she wanted to create an Indian street food-inspired business after a trip to India with her parents and partner. The first iteration of JBC was a pop-up in front of a liquor store, across the street from where she was living in San Francisco at the time. The pop-up got rave reviews and afforded Mistry the opportunity to see that her street food fare had wide appeal.

This new brick and mortar JBC is Mistry’s stake in her cuisine and her new neighborhood (she and her partner moved to Temescal a year and a half ago). Located in Temescal Plaza next door to La Calaca Loca, JBC has thus far attracted both a mix of Mistry’s Temescal neighbors and a swath of Art Murmurers and Edible Excursioners in its first week of business.

With Mistry’s cooking credentials, I had to ask where her passion came from – anticipating, maybe, a tale of growing up in her mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen. Instead, Mistry said she didn’t really start cooking until after she left her parents’ house as a young adult: “My partner and I met really young and we moved to San Francisco in 1996. We kinda have always had a desire and a knack for entertaining, just amongst our friends. Even before I went to culinary school [at Le Cordon Bleu London]. Nowadays people are really into food, but in the late ’90s no one cared about food the way we do now, and the two of us would throw these elaborate dinner parties when we were, like, 24 years old. Nobody did that sh–. But we were really into it. We would make people dress up and have table settings and place cards and do several-coursed meals.”

At JBC, Mistry is back to those original roots of presiding over her own kitchen.

“Like any chef, I reached a point where I was like, ‘This is my food. This is me.’ For many years, cooking other people’s food or other cuisines, it was like, ‘Ok, this is how it’s supposed to be, this burger or this Caesar salad or this red wine braised short rib or this chimichurri sauce or this romesco sauce,'” Mistry said. “Like any person who learns their craft, you do things that have already been done, and you learn how to do it and at some point you reach a place where you can create something of your own.

“And I seem to have reached that place. I have a very specific point of view. And I don’t think I had that three years ago.”

 

Juhu Beach Club

Where: 5179 Telegraph Ave. at 51st Street, Oakland
Phone: (510) 652-7350
Hours: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (lunch hours coming soon)
More info: www.juhubeachclub.com

 

Oakland Social is a weekly arts and culture column devoted to upcoming events, new places, and narratives about going out in Oakland. Have ideas for what to cover? Contact goingout@oaklandlocal.com.

 

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