Bites: Chef Preeti Mistry’s Juhu returns to Oakland this summer at a huge new Jack London Square food hall

Preeti Mistry at her former Temescal restaurant, Juhu Beach Club. Photo: Emilie Raguso

JUHU’S COMING BACK The East Bay mourned when Juhu Beach Club closed last January. For five years, chef Preeti Mistry held court at her first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Temescal (she started off with pop-ups), where diners flocked for flavorful and craveable dishes like pavs, bhel salad and Manchurian cauliflower. But even before shutting the doors at 5179 Telegraph Ave., Mistry had already been planning to bring back Juhu. Last September, a couple of months after she and partner Ann Nadeau closed their other restaurant, Navi Kitchen in Emeryville, Mistry told Eater, “There will be a 3.0, we can’t totally talk about it yet but it’s not going away. I’m not going away.” Well, details of Juhu’s return have just been released this week. A Food & Wine feature first divulged that Mistry will open two new quick-service kiosks — Juhu Chinese Menu and Juhu Snacks and Sweets — at Oakland Assembly, the upcoming Jack London Square food hall, in summer 2020. Nosh spoke with Mistry on the phone about Juhu’s return.

“As LL Cool J said, ‘don’t call it a comeback,'” Mistry said. “I don’t think I ever planned to not be back with some sort of restaurant or food offering.” But, she admits, it took longer than she had anticipated, which in some ways, was a good thing. “It gave me a lot more time to actually realize what I wanted to do.”

Mistry said she had a lot of different ideas before landing on her two-pronged project, but that being in a food hall informed her final decision to open two separate concepts. Mistry said she considered feedback that Juhu Beach Club’s menu seemed to have “an identity crisis.” She also thought about vendors at food stands and night markets across the world, who often focus on one particular thing and do it well. Doing so makes it easier for the vendor, but also the customers, who can easily identify what they’ll be getting with a streamlined menu. Each Juhu kiosk will offer a super curated menu, with about five items each, some of which will change with the season.

Juhu Chinese Menu will focus on Indo-Chinese cuisine, a style of food that emerged in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), inspired by the cuisine eaten by Hakka Chinese immigrants in the area, but adapted for Indian tastes. Here, Mistry will bring back the Manchurian cauliflower, a dish so popular at Juhu Beach Club that Mistry said she “would never even consider taking it off the menu” because “people would have rioted.” Other dishes will be familiar to steadfast Juhu fans, like sticky wings, bacon fried rice and Hakka noodles, which the restaurant offered on a seasonal basis. A new dish Mistry will introduce is cumin lamb, made with lamb belly that she’ll braise, then wok-fire. The ability to cook in a wok is something Mistry said she’s excited about. “The type of sear you can get on noodles and fried rice is different in a wok.”


Juhu Snacks and Sweets, on the other hand, will be more “Indian Indian,” as Mistry put it, focused on street food snacks like pani puri, samosa and dosa, but with “flourishes you wouldn’t see” at most Indian restaurants. Returning Juhu Beach Club dishes include the Bombay sandwich, bhel salad and gluten-free dosa waffle, but Mistry is still experimenting, including trying new versions of idli (steamed rice cakes) and uttapam (savory pancake). For the sweets, she’ll be partnering with local confectioners, who like her, have new takes on traditional Indian offerings.

Both Juhu kiosks will be open daily for lunch and dinner. But unlike at Juhu Beach Club, it’ll be rare to see Mistry working at either business, especially once things are running smoothly. Part of what attracted her to Oakland Assembly is being able to hire a small team of professionals to run the day-to-day operations. A longtime proponent of improving restaurant workers wages and rights, Mistry said the kiosks will allow her to keep prices affordable ($5-$15), while paying staff a living wage and still be profitable. “The ability to afford to live in the Bay Area has gotten exponentially more difficult. It has reached a point that there’s no way I want to open a business unless I can pay everyone fairly,” Mistry said. “My goal is to value everyone for their contribution.” Juhu Chinese Menu and Juhu Snacks and Sweets will be at Oakland Assembly, 55 Harrison St. (at Embarcadero West), Oakland

Design rendering of Oakland Assembly at 55 Harrison Street in Jack London Square. Image courtesy of JRDV.
Design rendering of Oakland Assembly at 55 Harrison Street in Jack London Square. Image courtesy of JRDV.

MORE DETAILS ON THE ASSEMBLY Today, we also got more details on the Oakland Assembly food hall itself. According to a press release from Jack London Square, Mistry’s new businesses will be in good company when the destination market opens this summer —  the two-level, 40,000-square-foot project from Kinzie Bridge Holdings will be grounds for dining kiosks from lauded chefs Reem Assil, Matt Horn, Anthony Kresge, Abram Plaut and Tomoharu Shono, and Satoshi and Sachi Kamimae, along with more yet-to-be-announced food and beverage makers. Oakland Assembly will boast a second-story banquet hall and balcony, outdoor dining areas and an indoor stage for hosting community events and live entertainment.

Like Mistry, many of the Assembly’s new chef tenants are already well-known and loved in Oakland. Assil, who’s best known for her Fruitvale-based Arab bakery Reem’s California, will serve falafal and chicken shawarma; the Kamimaes, the couple behind the popular Oakland Japanese-street food pop-up Okkon, will open their first non-mobile operation; and Matt Horn, who many have crowned the king of Oakland BBQ, will open KowBird, a concept focusing on chicken. Plaut and Shono, the duo behind Mensho Tokyo Ramen, will open a second location for the acclaimed San Francisco tori paitan hotspot. And Kresge (Shadowbrook, Sotola), will serve burgers at Belly Goat and charcuterie, cheese and panini at The Bull & The Bird. Finally, Oakland Winery will make its debut at the Assembly. Oakland Assembly will be at 55 Harrison St. (at Embarcadero West), Oakland

SOUL SURVIVOR In March, when chef Dionne Knox uprooted Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, her California-style Southern soul food business, out of Mandela Grocery Cooperative in West Oakland, she was hoping to reopen in her new space by summer. But things took longer than expected, and diners have had to wait patiently for the return of Zella’s biscuit sandwiches, fried chicken, salads and homemade soups. The good news is, the wait is nearly over. Over the weekend, Knox shared that the new Zella’s, located near the 12th Street Bart Station in Downtown Oakland, will soft open Dec. 2. Hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, 499 14th St., suite 117 (Between Broadway and Clay Street), Oakland

FUNGUS AMONG US Climate change has not been good for truffle lovers. Truffles and other fruiting bodies prefer cold, wet weather, but with every year, temperatures have become warmer and drier, meaning peak truffle season keeps getting pushed back. Last year, we lucked out with a good season, however this year, things have started off poorly. But according to Oliveto owner Bob Klein, a recent spate of rainfall and cooler nighttime temps in Italy have meant we might just have enough high-quality truffles in time for his restaurant’s annual truffle dinners. The 24th annual event takes place this year Nov. 19-23. As always, Oliveto will offer an a la carte menu of antipasti, salads and entrees featuring and highlighting white and black truffles, along with other seasonal mushrooms. Reservations can be made online. Oliveto, 5655 College Ave. (at Shafter Avenue), Oakland

For 10 years, patrons at Forbidden Island put up dollar bills on the ceiling and walls at the Alameda tiki bar. Photo: Grace Suh

ISLAND TREASURE It’s been a decade-long tradition for patrons at Alameda tiki bar Forbidden Island to help with the decor. After customers personalized dollar bills with their names, drawings or sayings, they would pin them up to the ceilings, walls and other surfaces using cocktail picks or umbrellas. But according to Boing Boing, the bar recently ran out of space. Owner Michael Thanos, with the help of his staff, decided to take down all the cash on the walls. The effort took a whole day and filled four big garbage bags with what amounted to be $10,367. Thanos ended up donating more than $8000 to three local non-profits (Building FuturesFriends of the Alameda Animal Shelter and Alameda Family Services), with the remaining dollars going back on the ceiling until they need to do it all over again. Til then, Forbidden Island is hosting a pop-up benefit with guest bartender Tiki Lindy for another good cause. All proceeds from the night will be donated to help Northern California wildfire survivors via Stand for Kindness. Forbidden Island, 1304 Lincoln Ave. (at Sherman Street) Alameda

Boba Panda opened Nov. 17 on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.
Boba Panda opened Nov. 17 on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

BEAR WITH US, MORE BOBA IN BERKELEY The café space formerly occupied by Fertile Grounds Café reopened on Sunday as Boba Panda. Owner Charles Lee told Nosh his shop uses all premium teas from Taiwan to make its milk teas, tea lattes, fruit teas, smoothies and cheese creama drinks. Along with bubble tea, Boba Panda serves ice cream and Taiwanese egg puffs. Boba Panda, 1796 Shattuck Ave. (at Delaware Street), Berkeley  

A BREATH OF FRESH… MEAT? Air Protein, a Berkeley-based company, claims to have produced the “world’s first air-based meat, created from elements found in the air we breathe.” According to the press release from the company, Air Protein combines these elements with water and mineral nutrients, and through a probiotic production process, creates a product that has the same amino acid profile as an animal protein. The company touts that air based protein doesn’t require the same land, water, weather requirements or time that traditional meat farming, or even soybean farming does. It also says its product is better than most meat subsitutes, because it’s “packed with crucial B vitamins, which are often deficient in a vegan diet.” But is it really fair to call it meat? According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Air Protein’s products “looks like a flour and carries a neutral flavor.” The company will likely create protein-enriched pastas, bars and other products from the flour, so alas, at least for now, we won’t be biting into juicy, flavorful air steaks.

FREDDY GOT FINGERED Portlandia fans will get a kick out of this one: Fred Armisen was spotted at Itani Ramen on Saturday, getting grub before heading across the street to the Fox Theater, where his television co-star Carrie Brownstein took the stage with Sleater-Kinney. Chef Kyle Itani reposted a photograph on Instagram, showing Armisen posing with Itani Ramen general manager, Megu Wada. According to the caption, Armisen ordered the Salmon 3 Way, a rice bowl topped with grilled salmon, salmon sashimi and salmon roe. Itani Ramen, 1736 Telegraph Ave. (between 17th and 17th streets), Oakland