One of my favorite meals while in New York was at BABU JI, offering an inventive and updated version of Indian cuisine. So I was beyond happy to learn the unexpected news (originally via a tweet from Zagat) that owners and husband-and-wife team Jennifer and chef Jessi Singh are coming to SF! (The restaurant first opened in Melbourne.)
Their NYC tasting menu was full of outstanding dishes, like their jaw-droppingly beautiful yogurt kebabs, the abundant thali plate, and some of the best tandoori chicken I’ve had in ages. They will reportedly be taking over the Nostra space on Valencia; stand by for more details soon. 280 Valencia St. at 14th St.
Another Indian import is coming, this time to Civic Center: AUGUST 1 FIVE. Owner Hetal Shah, a partner in Red Hot Chilli Pepper in San Carlos, is bringing over chef Manish Kumar Tyagi, previously at the acclaimed Rasika in Washington, DC, and Taj Hotels and Resorts. The restaurant is due to open this fall, and the menu will be inspired by Northern Indian regional cuisines and feature seasonal influences and modern techniques. Don’t look for the usual suspects of tikka masala and butter chicken, however—they will be introducing other dishes beyond the typical curries. There will also be cocktails and a global wine list. Craige Walters (Black Cat, Hecho) is redesigning the 90-seat space (previously O3 Bistro & Lounge), which will be refined but inviting. The name is in reference to the date of India’s independence from British rule. 524 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister.
As for what will be moving into the former Betelnut, we previously mentioned Adriano Paganini’s restaurant group, Back of the House, was taking over the space, and now they have revealed it’s going to be a contemporary Mexican restaurant.
The menu will feature traditional dishes from Mexican states spanning the Gulf to the Pacific (so, um, that’s a lot of ground, but we’ll see what they focus on). Family recipes, masa ground on-site (by hand!), and roasted meats by the pound (carnitas) are mentioned, plus small plates like sopes and crab tostadas, as well as other starters, salads, mains (whole-roasted fish), and more. Chef-partner Luis Flores of Uno Dos Tacos has been playing a big part in the concept, taking several trips to Mexico with Paganini. There will also be traditional and craft cocktails, with a focus on mezcal and tequila (of course), and pitchers. Always dangerous. Stand by for more on timing and the name soon. 2030 Union St. at Buchanan.
Babu Ji’s yogurt kebabs in a stunning sauce of beet and ginger. Photo: © tablehopper.com.