LOS ALTOS, Calif. – Restaurateur Vijay Bist is gearing up for the grand opening of a new outpost of his acclaimed Amber India chain here Oct. 13.
“I want people to come and celebrate, enjoy and have a good time, and make good memories,” he told India-West during the upscale eatery’s soft opening on a warm evening Oct. 11.
Taking a break from welcoming an estimated 300 invited guests, all of whom came in high spirits and offering enthusiastic congratulations, Bist explained, “For me, it’s a passion.” “Every day, I have the same passion to come to work as I did the first day,” he said. “As long as I’m in business, I will do my best to bring good quality food, elegant décor and good service.”
Amber India has taken over the former Pineapple Grill at 4926 El Camino Real, a short hop west of the flagship Mountain View restaurant where it all began 20 years ago and nourished Silicon Valley luminaries ranging from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and David Packard.
That site has closed to make room for office space, he explained. The new location, a few blocks south of San Antonio Road, is nestled among trees and surrounded by free parking, and now boasts a cellar lounge, a spacious upstairs banquet hall with a stage, a large dining room with skylight and bar, and a breezy, welcoming patio, complete with al fresco fireplace.
Bist was especially excited to renovate the former Chuck’s Cellar nightclub on the restaurant’s bottom floor. The space, now called the Amber Club, has hosted performances by artists ranging from the Kingston Trio to Linda Ronstadt to the Eagles (the band formed here after a stint as Ronstadt’s backup group), and features a colorful original mural by noted local painter Anggelyka V. Apostle. The remainder of the artwork seen throughout Amber India has been collected over decades by Bist himself, and includes pieces by noted Indian contemporary artist Gopi Gajwani.
The three-story space seats 140 in its main dining room, 190 in an upstairs banquet hall, 20 in a private dining room where guests can order a prix fixe menu, and 75 in the Amber Club.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Kumar Malavalli wielded the ceremonial scissors and cut a bright red satin ribbon officially inaugurating the restaurant.
“Since I’ve known Vijay, for the past 15-17 years, we’ve been very close friends, and I send him a lot of business,” Malavalli, Indian American chairman of the India Community Center, told India-West. “He caters all my parties, which all have different themes – maybe Spanish, maybe Japanese – and every time, he creates a different fusion cuisine.”
The new Los Altos restaurant will offer the same North and South Indian dishes from the Mountain View location that have earned raves from Zagat, the San Francisco Chronicle and Yelp, such as spicy Aleppy Fried Prawns with peanut sauce; Amritsari Paneer Tikka; tender Frontier Kebab, a tandoor-roasted lamb dish marinated in yogurt, ginger and garlic; Konkan Fish Curry; and vegetarian dishes such as creamy Dal Bukhara, Baingan Bharta and the trademark Amber Ki Hari Sabzi, an Indian-spiced dish of fresh sautéed greens.
“The original team of chefs from Mountain View Amber, headed by our chef Shailendra Singh, who has been with us for 20 years, and Sibji Bista, will continue at the new Amber location in Los Altos,” said Bist. In addition, Bist has recently brought onboard Rupam Bhagat, a high-profile talent trained in India whose experience includes a 12-year stint at several Ritz Carlton properties. Bhagat will oversee the lounge, the private dining room and banquets. The team from Amber Santana Row, including executive chef Sandeep Basrur and chef Manish Tyagi, teamed with Bhagat on the soft opening’s menu.
The Amber India empire now spans six restaurants in Northern California – Los Altos, Santana Row in San Jose, on Yerba Buena Lane in San Francisco, Amber Café in Mountain View, Amber Dhara in Palo Alto, and Amber Dhara 680 Valencia Street, now a unique partnership with the Thai street food restaurant Hawker Fare from Michelin-starred chef James Syhabout.
Amber India is located at 4926 El Camino Real in Los Altos, Calif. For information, call (408) 968-7511 or visit www.amber-india.com.