Curry Dive Report: Chowdown at Juhu Beach Club in San Francisco
This morning I pulled out my Bengal tiger and Taj Mahal printed pants out of the closet. Turmeric-stained, they’ve been my regular attire for dozens of curry dive chowdowns at Indian, Pakistani and Nepali eateries over the years. Today they added a notch at Juhu Beach Club, San Francisco.
Juhu Beach Club (JBC) is three weeks old, the lunch time pop-up owned by Top Chef vet, Preeti Mistry.
With the deluge of pre-opening press and continued positive media coverage since, we expected to find a big crowd here. Instead, besides the eight in our group, we saw only two other people take a seat.
Here's the initial menu for Juhu Beach Club. In addition, iced chai, $2, chocolate chip chai spiced cookie, and a day's special of Navi Mumbai chicken salad, $8, were also available. Chef Preeti says she's looking to add more daily specials including a lamb burger/sausage thing.
We tried everything on the menu, ordering enough samosas for each of us and then splitting the other items and reordering our favorites. The menu descriptions are in “quotes” with a photo. I ask that my dining companions help fill in the details and share their opinions.
“India's Bizarre Love Triangle, $6 - Two potato and pea samosas with Preeti's chutneys and seasonal salad with citrus ginger vinaigrette.”
Even nicer, Chef Preeti came over to our table to explain the laborious process of making the very thin dough, parcooking them for extra crispness, and her debate over whether to serve them already drizzled.
“Holy Slow Braised Cow, $9 - Smoky black cardamon short rib sandwich with cucumber raita on an Acme bun.” My personal favorite, we got a second one of this.
“Sloppy Lil' P, $7 - Butter, spicy vegetarian sloppy joe.”
“Chowpatty Chicken, $7 - Green chili chicken sandwich with tangy cabbage slaw.”
A second chowpatty chicken sandwich, after we used the handle of the compostable fork to try to divide it to share. Loved the bright turmeric yellow slaw.
And we did order the day's special, Navi Mumbai salad, topped with grilled spicy chicken breast, roasted parships and crispy strips, but I forgot to photograph it. Likewise, “Sassy Lassi, $3 – Alphonso mango yogurt cooler with toasted cumin and lime”. Before leaving I got an iced chai, $2, for the road. Barely sweetened, the nuanced spicing tasted more direct and focused.
So, ‘hounds please have at it and tell us your likes and dislikes.
Juhu Beach Club
, San Francisco, CA
The beef and chicken were both delicious, and the short ribs were incredibly unctuous. They were both a little more subtly spiced than the curried vegetables. All were very good, but surprisingly it's the in-your-face spice of the "sloppy joe" that has me wanting more a day after the fact.
So good to meet you, so glad that two of you could join us during your visit!
The vegetable sloppy joe is Chef Preeti's take on pav bhaji. The masala was more assertive in this dish as well as being the one with notable spicy heat. I didn't get a good read on this dish from my portion, and when I left the place, I was thinking that I'd need to taste it again. When I've had pav bhaji made by home cooks here, the bun is oozing with butter and there's another pat of butter on top of the mashed veggies. So, this one seemed far less buttery to me, at least the bite I had. Later when I read the menu description saying "buttery", I only remembered less butter than I'm accustomed to.
I thought everything we tasted was quite good, but agree with the other posters that the incredibly tender, wonderfully flavored braised beef sandwich was spectacular. I thought the chicken sandwich was a close second, with a wonderful char, excellent spicing, and deliciously tender.
The mango lassi was different from ones I have tasted before, more savory than sweet. It complemented the food well, but might disappoint someone who was expecting the sweet, creamy concoction they have had at other Indian restaurants.
I would definitely go back. The opportunity to sample such inventive, accomplished cooking at such a reasonable price can't be beat. I hope the chef/owner is successful, and is able to add more items to the menu as business increases. I'm particularly looking forward to the lamb sausage she was thinking of adding to the menu. It's definitely fusion food, with sandwiches dominating the menu, but the flavors seem to me (someone who has not traveled in South Asia) authentic.
For those driving into the City from the East Bay or the Peninsula, it's only a couple of blocks from the Civic Center exit, and for those who shop at Costco, it's only half a block from the store. There was plenty of metered parking available on the same block, and those shopping at Costco could probably get away with leaving their car in the lot there while they grab lunch. The chef said she was considering opening on Saturdays as well.
I think the dish I enjoyed the most was the Mumbai salad, with the pieces of the charred chicken. It had an interesting mix of ingredients, with I dressing I couldn't quite identify (lime?) but enjoyed. To me, it was a little more interesting than the sandwiches.
The one item I did not care for too much was the vegetarian "sloppy joe". The mix of creamy vegetables was nice, but didn't really work as a sandwich for me.
I enjoyed the food a lot, but I would need to see more items on the menu to tempt would definitely come back for more.
re: Martin Strell
It really speaks to the strength of Chef Preeti's execution and this initial menu that someone has named each of the dishes as a favorite. That doesn't happen often at our chowdowns.
I really appreciated the amount of char on the chicken. Someone pointed out the cloud of smoke hovering near the skylight high above our heads.
Juhu Beach Club
, San Francisco, CA
The zing of lime in the mango lassi gave it an extra lift, and while I would have liked less ice dilution, the thinner texture made it more of a beverage instead of the near-dessert that it can often be.
To comment on texture again, the braised short rib meat did not have the common failing of being stringy. And while very rich, the thickened texture seemed to be from concentrated meat juices and collagen rather than fat. I liked the overflowing look of the sandwich too, nicely proportioned and generous.
I admired the pants without knowing that it was an official uniform!
My favorites were the exquisitely spiced braised beef sandwich (I think this was my first time ordering any beef dish at an Indian restaurant) and the mango lassi, which was thinner and less sweet than milkshake-like concoctions at most restaurants. I would order both again.
The heavy char on the chowpatty chicken reminded me of chicken sandwiches served at fundraising functions at my hometown grange. I liked the slaw, but the spicing on the meat itself was maybe too straightforward for me.
Overall, a great crowd of fellow diners, and both the chef and the woman who took orders were friendly and helpful. I can't imagine this location gets a lot of foot traffic during the day, but I wouldn't be surprised if it became enough of a draw to lure people on its own merits.
I'm with pane on this one. The beef sandwich was spectacular. Melt in your mouth soft. Were I not supposed to be dieting, I would have ordered one to go!
The char on the chicken didn't bother me and it worked well in both the sandwich and special salad.
Since I got to the restaurant early, I tried one of the chai chocolate chip cookie. It would have been a very good rendition of the cookie were it without the chai, but with the chai there was a subtle, exotic flavor that made it a nice respite from the usual ones. Even better yet, mine was fresh and warm from the oven!
The location doesn't seem conducive to walk-by traffic, but I easily found a shaded, free parking spot across the street from Costco, so I'm sure I'll be back, despite the weekday drive from Silicon Valley.
re: Peter Yee
I found a non-metered space on Folsom street near 10th. It was a one-hour space, and there were several open. The block between 11th and 10th has two-hour non-metered parking.
Much as i enjoyed having the near undivided attention of the chef, I hope that the world of eaters beats a path to her door soon. Maybe like me, others assume that the place is too busy from all the media attention. Far from it, so go there. And there's plenty of seating inside, unlike some of the other pop-up lunch counters around town.
Thanks, drawstring waistbands come in handy some days. :)
I agree with you that the chicken's spicing could have been ramped up. Until I looked at the photo, I didn't realize there was a green chili spread. Yet I have to give kudos for the texture of the chicken, so juicy right off the grill. From the name of the sandwich, I had thought it would be a burger/patty of some sort and wasn't expecting a slab of breast. Or I think it was breast and not dark meat.