San Francisco's loss is the Peninsula's gain: August 1 Five chef opens Indian restaurant in Los Altos | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Palo Alto Online |

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By Elena Kadvany

San Francisco's loss is the Peninsula's gain: August 1 Five chef opens Indian restaurant in Los Altos

Uploaded: Dec 24, 2020

After modern Indian restaurant August 1 Five closed in San Francisco this month, chef Manish Tyagi was left looking for a new job in the midst of the pandemic.

He ended up teaming up with his partner, Anupam Bhatia, who owns Broadway Masala in Redwood City, to bring a new Indian restaurant to downtown Los Altos. This week they opened Aurum at 132 State St. (the former home of high-end restaurant Ambience) for takeout and delivery only given the current public health restrictions.

Junglee, an Indian lamb stew, served at the newly open Aurum in Los Altos. Photo courtesy Hardy Wilson.

Tyagi, who was born and raised in Dehradun, India, brings years of culinary experience at restaurants including the now-closed Amber Dhara in San Francisco and Rasika West End in Washington D.C. He also actually defeated chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay" in 2018. (His winning dish? Paneer spinach lasagna.)

While the owners describe Aurum's food as "modern" and "progressive," the goal, Tyagi said, is to highlight "forgotten" and lesser-known dishes from throughout India. One example is junglee, a lamb stew that's cooked over low heat in an enclosed vessel with mustard oil, coriander, cumin, garam masala and other spices for as long as two hours, Tyagi said. There's also deccan shrimp, head-on shrimp that are grilled and served over a grits-like mixture of lentils and mung beans, he said.

Head-on, ghee-roasted shrimp at Aurum in Los Altos. Photo courtesy Hardy Wilson.

The menu also includes a smoked chili paneer kebab; chicken biryani; pulled pork thepla tacos with fenugreek, cloves, chickpeas, bayleaf and sour cream; spicy lamb skewers with caramelized onion, yogurt, roasted coriander, cumin and fennel seeds; and several kinds of Indian breads. For dessert, there's tapioca kheer (like rice pudding) with cardamom and saffron and chocolate rasmalai.

"We committed to bring forgotten recipes and the nostalgia of Indian cuisine," Tyagi said.

The owners thought by the time Aurum opened, the restaurant would be able to at least serve people outdoors if not also indoors at limited capacity. With State Street closed to traffic, Aurum has enough space outdoors to seat 25 to 30 people.

Aurum CEO Anupam Bhatia, left, and COO/chef Manish Tyagi. Photo courtesy Hardy Wilson.

For now, Tyagi is holding off on some dishes that he knows won't hold up well in takeout boxes, like a shell made from semolina and whole wheat flour that's stuffed with garbanzo beans, cucumber, yogurt, tamarind, mint and cilantro chutney. But operating as a takeout operation for now is almost like a soft opening that's allowing Tyagi to tweak and hone dishes.

Aurum is open for takeout and delivery Tuesday-Sunday, 4-9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Christmas but open on New Year's Day.