India’s famed chef Sanjeev Kapoor selected Silicon Valley, not surprisingly, for one of his first forays into the U.S. market with his Yellow Chilli restaurant. The most famous culinary figure in India, he has reached hundreds of millions via his long-running “Khana Khazana” TV show, the 24-hour food channel he launched and the 150-plus cookbooks he’s written.
Now, two months after Kapoor visited Santa Clara for the grand opening of this Yellow Chilli, locals who grew up watching or hearing about the chef are still flocking here for their first taste of his recipes. We stopped by to check out the evolving scene.
THE VIBE: Lunchtime belongs to the tech crowd at this vibrant restaurant with its signature yellow booths and geometric design elements and light fixtures. At dinner, families and large groups dominate, with the dining room its fullest well after 8 p.m.
Yellow Chilli is designed to invite guests to linger. How so? There isn’t a wiry or flimsy chair in the place! In today’s restaurant world, that’s a rarity. You’ll sit on cushioned designer chairs whether in the dining room or the bar, and those padded booths, topped by white Mondrian-style screens, allow for easy cross-table conversation.
THE FOOD: Kapoor’s menu has been called a gastronomic tour of India. Signature entrees include Tariwala Murgh ($16.99), a fragrant curry from a noted roadside restaurant along the Delhi-Ambala Road that’s packed with large, tender pieces of chicken; and the Lalla Mussa Dal, a dish of green and black lentils simmered overnight that is believed to have originated in the northwestern frontier province. The Biryani are cleverly covered in a thin pastry to keep the rice mixture inside moist and hot; you “crack” open the dish when it arrives at your table.
An entire menu page is devoted to Shaam Saveera, the first dish the chef created on TV. These cheese-stuffed spinach koftas set in a tomato-butter gravy are the chain’s most commonly ordered dish.
Kapoor’s signature dessert is the Gulab-e-Gulkand ($8.99), a baseball-sized, syrup-covered fritter that offers a surprise at the core: a compote of rose petals. Plan to share this one, for sweetness’ sake.
GOOD TO KNOW: Some of the cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages on the intriguing beverage menu are made with a toasted cumin powder called Jal-Jeera. If you don’t know for sure whether you enjoy cumin in your glass as well as on your plate, sample one before ordering a round for the table.
PERFECT FOR … Silicon Valley confabs, colleague catch-ups and job interviews. Plus foodies who want to explore some different riffs on Indian cuisine.
DETAILS: Yellow Chilli is one of the anchor tenants at Monticello, a large retail/housing complex at 3555 Monroe St., Santa Clara. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. dinner Monday through Thursday; open until 10:30 Friday nights. Weekend lunch hours are noon to 3 p.m. On Saturdays, dinner runs from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., until 10 on Sundays. 408-380-4143; www.theyellowchilli.com/santaclara
A Peek Inside: Santa Clara’s celebrity-chef driven Yellow Chilli