When I was a kid, my babysitter, Carol Neill, would tell us that if we behaved all morning, we would get a special treat. We all knew what that meant, a trip to Lake Temescal. Once there, we knew we would spend that summer day in a delirium of fun as we swam and cavorted on it’s tiny beach, burning off that youthful energy that children seem to amass in droves, with hours and hours of waterplay. In my young mind, it was a far off destination, and these outings an incomparable adventure. We would wade in with her three children, our steadfast playmates, and challenge the beckoning waters that lapped at the edge of its beachfront. I haven’t been back there in years, and imagine it would seem very small now indeed to my grownup self. But when I was a child, this was our private retreat, an oasis nestled in the heart of Oakland. It was indeed a magical place. Beaches hold a beckoning sort of vastness at their edges, the shore is a promise of explorations to be, and as children the thrill of picturing the imaginary creatures who might populate the waters off the shore never grew old.
Naming an urban restaurant after a beach resort, then, is high promise indeed, conjuring up the images of abandon and pleasure that one might expect from a seaside escape. Fortunately for her patrons, Priti Mistri’s Juhu Beach Club delivers on that promise. On a recent visit to Juhu Beach Club, itself perched unassumingly in a tiny strip mall, rather than on an oceanfront pier, we embarked on a journey of exploration of our own. We arrived on a particularly chill and rainy day, so one of the first dishes that caught our eye was the Bombay Sandwich, a lovely medley of pressed cheese, cilantro chutney, and beets played against a spicy chaat masala. The optional cup of Tomato Shorba seemed a must in the gloomy weather, and the warm tomato-ey spices were just the ticket. We ended up using it as a “dip” for almost all the other goodies that we sampled.
We’d have ordered more, but it’s only available separately as a dinner menu item. Definitely an incentive to return for dinner.
There were many appealing choices, so we were forced to “man up” and attempted to do our best at sampling as many variations as we could
master in one sitting. The sandwich choices allow for mixing and matching in reasonably priced combos, so we got two sets of three sandwiches to be split among the four of us, in addition to the Bombay. They are a nice sized sandwich here, just a bit bigger than a slider, but with that lovely polished finish one expects from this modern “bite on a bun.” This presentation is almost a “hamburger tapas” and it makes me happy. Like mini cupcakes, they are small enough to allow the diner to really get in there and try a variety of flavors, yet large enough to fill one up if you only want one or two.
The promised heat of the Vaga Pav appealed, with its potato and ghost pepper blend. We found it enjoyable, but not particularly spicy, which was a surprise. It had a kick, but nothing jarring, as my non-spice-eating spouse was able to enjoy it with us. I’m not sure this is typical, as I didn’t get a chance to chat with the chef to ask about the intended heat levels. The Chowpatty Chicken with its blend of green chillies, chicken and tangy slaw was a refreshing bite. We also tried the Holy Cow, which features the lovely melted beef of a brisket-texture to its meat, the fat of the toothsome beef offset well by the nicely acidic cucumber raita. My favorite sandwich bite may have been the Pork Vindaloo, an Indian take on pulled pork, gently slathered in a vindaloo barbeque sauce and finished with a nice yoghurt sauce.
Each sandwich was sufficiently different that we were continually bouncing between the flavors. I’ve never had anything but the classic Indian fare found in hot buttery naam or a nice bowl of tikka masala, so I really loved experiencing a lighter hand and more subtle take on all the flavors of South Asian cuisine offered here. The dishes were solid, and even though sampling so many in one sitting was a whirlwind, it was a dining experience we thoroughly enjoyed. The was indeed an adventure, and one I intend to repeat, and soon.
If you’d like to try something out of the box, but with all the love and attention of simple street food, with a touch of culinary genius, then Juhu Beach Club would be a great option to try in your own very near future.
Go on. Check it out for yourself, and make some new memories of your own. You know you want to.
Juhu Beach Club
5179 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
b/t Claremont Ave & 52nd St in Rockridge, North Oakland