Preeti Mistry to Open Two New Concepts at Oakland Food Hall
In 2020, the chef will debut Juhu Chinese Menu and Juhu Snacks and Sweets, bringing back some of her greatest hits, including a dosa waffle and crispy cauliflower manchurian.
After shuttering all of her Oakland restaurants in 2018, chef Preeti Mistry is back with two brand new concepts. Mistry says she will be "taking over an island" in the middle of the upcoming food hall called Oakland Assembly that will open next year in Oakland's Jack London Square. Both concepts are slated to open in summer of 2020.
On one side of the island is Juhu Chinese Menu, Mistry's Indo-Chinese concept that will serve things like piping hot bowls of fresh hakka noodles wok-fried with seasonal vegetables, bacon fried rice, and stir-fried crispy cumin lamb. There will also be plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, she says. Mistry is also using the concept to bring back one her most beloved dishes, the crispy cauliflower manchurian. It was a menu favorite at her now-shuttered Oakland restaurant Juhu Beach Club, and Mistry says it sold 50 percent better than everything else on the menu.
Indo-Chinese food, which originates in Calcutta and features plenty of heat, is not a "very well known genre of Indian food," says Mistry. "But it's super craveable and fun."
On the other side of the island, Mistry plans to open Juhu Snacks and Sweets, which in many ways feels like a paired down version of her former hit restaurant Juhu Beach Club. The menu consists of savory Indian snacks like bhel, which is puffed rice tossed with diced vegetables and various chutneys, potato- and masala-heavy Bombay sandwiches, riffs on samosas, and possibly even her famed dosa waffle, a gluten-free dish made from a fermented rice and lentil batter.
Mistry also plans to serve pani puri as it is served in India, where each puri is individually stuffed with a savory filling and then dunked in a vat of mint- and cilantro-spiced water. She also plans on a serving a hotter version of the snack, which she is dubbing "fire puri." True to the stand's name, Mistry is also collaborating with local cooks to provide the sweets portion of the menu.
Both concepts will serve highly curated menus of just five or so dishes, and nothing should cost more than $5 to $15 dollars, per Mistry. She reveals that she has spent the past year and a half thinking that she wanted to open a "more fine-dining version of Juhu Beach Club."
"I am glad I didn't jump into it right away," she says. "Right now, our industry is in a crisis and it feels very challenging to staff a place and pay a living wage to everyone, especially in the Bay Area where cost of living is so expensive." But the food hall opportunity felt correct. Instead of needing to raise $2 million capital to launch the concepts, Mistry says, she now only needs to find $400,000.
"This is much more accessible to the concept for the customers," she says. Not only is it more affordable, it will also be open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner.
"I feel like that is where I want to put my energy right now," she notes. "I want to focus on creating a team where everyone is equally valued and is paid a living wage, while cooking the best versions of these dishes."