LAVANDA REINVENTED ... When the Lavanda Croatian restaurant and wine bar closed its doors last summer at 185 University Ave. in Palo Alto, the closure came with a promise from its two owners. "We will be back," they both said. True to their word, restaurateurs Bruce Schmidt and Luka Dvornik are now poised to open their new venture, Palo Alto Grill, just a block away from their old one at 140 University Ave., where Miyake used to be. Currently, the two are busy renovating the former sushi restaurant into a steakhouse. Going with what Schmidt calls a "classic-contemporary design," the restaurant will feature dark woods with gold and black accents. Palo Alto Grill, at 3,900 square feet, is about the same size as Lavanda, and prices for entrees will be fairly consistent with the old restaurant, Schmidt said. He added that the entrees will have European flourishes, including some of the Croatian specialties that Lavanda was known for. "But it's basically a steakhouse with straightforward food," Schmidt said. He added that the steaks will come in three flavors: grass-fed, dry-aged and corn finished, and prime. Expected opening is the end of January 2013.
FROM MORTGAGES TO STREET FOOD ... Akash Kapoor is the first to admit he's an unlikely owner of a chain of bustling restaurants and food trucks. "I'm not a food guy. Up until 2009, I owned a mortgage company," he said. After the financial collapse, Kapoor launched Curry Up Now, a food-truck business serving Indian street food. Since then, Kapoor's business has exploded. He now has five food trucks, and opened his third Bay Area restaurant in November in Palo Alto. He plans to open six more restaurants in another year, with the next one scheduled to open in San Francisco's Mission District next month. Located in the former Cafe Renaissance at 321 Hamilton Ave., Curry Up Now is already a popular lunch destination, with noontime crowds queuing up out the door. "Palo Alto fits our demographic. It's got the young tech workers and also a huge residential neighborhood just a block away," Kapoor said. The 45-seat restaurant offers Indian street food such as samosas and naan.
OPAL'Z MOVES ON ... The unusual Opal'Z is leaving Palo Alto's Midtown neighborhood after a six-year-run. "The landlord has decided to make some changes to the building, so my lease is over," business owner Annie Jenkins said. The two-story, cottage-like shop, nestled in between two parking lots behind Starbucks Coffee at 719 Colorado Ave., was known for its soapmaking. Jenkins' store will close Dec. 31 and almost everything, including soaps, gift baskets and makeup, is for sale at sharply reduced prices. Jenkins has been fortunate; she already found a new space for her business on Independence Street in Mountain View. "But it won't be retail. It will be more of a workshop," she said. For those looking for Opal'Z scented soaps and lip balms in Midtown, Nature's Alley at 2675 Middlefield Road will carry some of the products. "It's a good fit for that store," Jenkins said, adding, "So it's not really goodbye. That's for sure."