By Elena Kadvany
Superfoods and lower prices: Palo Alto's Amber Dhara becomes new, casual conceptUploaded: Apr 5, 2019
Another local restaurant is transitioning from long lunches and white tablecloths to casual service in the face of changing demographics and rising labor costs.
Amber Dhara, which opened in downtown Palo Alto in 2011, has been replaced with Gup Shup, still an Indian restaurant but one focused on "superfoods" and a lower price point in an effort to serve younger, health-conscious diners.
Owner Vijay Bist, who has long run a string of Indian restaurants in the Bay Area, said the change is being spearheaded by three young chefs: Sri Ram Reddy Punnam, Vivek Desirazu and Hitesh Gauta, who recently joined the team from the Middle East and will lead the Amber Indian San Francisco kitchen.
A buffet lunch at Amber India. Photo by Natalia Nazarova.
Gup Shup soft opened at 150 University Ave. Friday with a new menu that includes ingredients such as jackfruit, farro, barley, kale and chia seeds. There's a samosa filled with jackfruit and lentils and a “Yogi Bowl” with vegetable broth, brown rice, spring vegetables chiffonade and steamed gluten-free noodles. If naan isn’t your thing, Gup Shup serves a chickpea-oat flat bread. Entree prices range from $9 to $14.
For drinks, there are matcha lattes and lassi made with mustard and raw turmeric. Even cocktails, including non-alcoholic drinks, feature what Bist described as "wellness-promoting ingredients" like turmeric, kale, goji berries and beets.
Many traditional Indian dishes, however — from tandoori chicken and dosa to pav bhaji and cauliflower bezule — still remain on the menu.
I asked Bist: Why the shift in identity?
"This concept of formal dining, it was not 100 percent working for us," Bist said. Diners are skewing younger, from tech workers from students, while local restaurants are ever-competing for their attention with tech companies' cafeterias, he said.
Also, "the cost of running a business has tremendously gone up with increasing cost of raw materials, labor (cost and shortage) and unrealistic real estate rent in Palo Alto," Bist added.
Amber India still operates in Los Altos, Mountain View, San Jose, Milpitas and San Francisco.
Gup Shup is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and happy hour at 4 p.m. Dinner is 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.