AUGUST 1 FIVE is now open, serving lunch and dinner. Meet your new pre-symphony or opera destination, and nearby workers should be happy with this option as well. As I’ve mentioned before, owner Hetal Shah is a partner in Red Hot Chilli Pepper in San Carlos. She has hired chef Manish Kumar Tyagi, previously at the acclaimed Rasika in Washington, DC, and locally at Amber India. The restaurant’s name refers to the date of India’s independence from British rule.
The upscale Indian menu is inspired by Northern Indian regional cuisines and features seasonal influences and modern techniques. Don’t come here expecting tikka masala and butter chicken—chef Tyagi has many more dishes to show you. The small plates portion of the menu is extensive, including a gol guppa flight ($8), which is his updated version of pani puri with rice added to the shell for extra crunch, and a series of five waters you pour in beyond the usual mint and tamarind.
Square arancini ($10) are a spin on his mother’s recipe of fried patties of rice and lentils, with the additional flair of goat cheese. Paneer kebab ($11) from the tandoor ovens in the kitchen is actually like a little sandwich with red chile paste inside, with a punch from mustard powder. Palak chaat ($8) features fried leaves of baby spinach, with layers of flavor and texture, like garbanzo, tamarind, and yogurt. A crock of bison keema ($16) is a substantial dish that’s loaded with flavor and spices—you treat it like a sloppy joe and spoon it inside the house-baked pao, which are like little Parker House rolls. The breads are housemade, including a trio of naan ($9) stuffed with a variety of fillings. There are 18 small plates, mind you.
Large plates range from tandoori sea bass ($29) to tender lamb chops ($32) slathered in a cashew paste and spiked with cardamom and mace. Chef Tyagi uses sustainable seafood, organic meats, and has a strong focus on local sourcing as well. Vegetarians will find a clever execution of rolls of paneer ($19) stuffed with pistachio, mint, and fenugreek inside, in a creamy tikka-like sauce, plus soy kofta ($17), and there are two kind of biryani, either vegetarian or chicken.
The plating is elegant and sophisticated, but not too fussy, and you’ll definitely feel fed without getting stuffed on saucy food, rice, and puffy naan—which means you’ll have room for the royal mousse ($8) for dessert, featuring crisp rounds of sweet dough and Bavarian cream.
The lunchtime menu includes some of the dinner menu’s small plates, plus wraps ($13), rice plates ($13), and sandwiches, including the bison keema with pao (trust me, you want this).
There is quite the creative cocktail list, like the Cricket Cup with Pimm’s and the unexpected addition of yogurt, and the turmeric lassi with dark rum—both pair well with food. If you’re coming by the bar for a cocktail, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club is a good place to kick off happy hour, with the smoky spice of Ancho Reyes. There are 10 in all, and all $12. The smart wine list includes many food-friendly California and French wines, with some affordable bottles in the mix.
The space has a variety of dining areas, from the dining room with eggplant leather chairs and peacock-blue velvet private booths that seat four (on both sides of the restaurant) to a larger table for groups and a high communal table flanking the bar. There are high-top tables near the bar as well, with a bronze tufted banquette and chic brass and leather chairs. It has a contemporary and colorful look, with an image of the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala on the wall (and his extraordinary bling—he was quite the lover of opulence and indulgence), overlooking it all. There are also fun touches like the colorful glass pendant lights and sconces, lattice on the sides of the booths, and plenty of punchy and shimmery colors. Craige Walters (Black Cat, Hecho) designed the 90-seat, 4,000-square-foot space.
Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, happy hour nightly 3pm-6pm, dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. 524 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister, 415-771-5900.
Bison keema. Photo courtesy of James Bueti.