Organic Indian restaurant The Menu shutters, Vintage Empire thrives in Mountain View and unusual new business BHuman heats up in Palo Alto.
THE MENU CLOSES ... It was a bold move in 2012 when Prakash Aswani took over an aging Indian restaurant that had been vacant for two years. He began a major renovation, turning the dilapidated 10,000-square-foot building into a swanky, upscale dining spot that served organic, artisan Indian cuisine. Aswani had high hopes for his newly named The Menu, 2700 W. El Camino, Mountain View, on the Palo Alto border. But hope ended early last month when the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office slapped an eviction notice on the front door. "It's sad it didn't work out," said an industry observer. "The restaurant had a nice buffet and reasonable prices. You'd think that the location alone would have brought in customers. There are so many hotels and businesses around here, and Lozano's Car Wash is right across the street. Maybe that corner is bad luck." The previous tenant, Southern Spice, occupied the spot for a short time. Before that, two other Indian restaurants, Swagat and Dastoor also came and went. The Menu did not go down without a fight. Along with a buffet that was continually trying to reinvent itself, it offered an extensive a la carte menu, a wine bar, live music, karaoke nights and a happy hour.
VINTAGE SHOP THRIVES IN NEW VENUE ... Vintage Empire owner Tiffany Gush is a survivor. Forced out of the Palo Alto retail market last year because of escalating rents, Gush moved her eclectic vintage clothing store to downtown Mountain View. As Vintage Empire enters its second year in business at 831 Villa St., things are looking up. "Mountain View is stoked that we're here because we're so different from everything else around," said Gush, who described the Castro Street area as a hub for small and independent businesses. She has recently opened an adjoining space for local artists to display their craft. "It's a pop-up store for artists who want to rent out space on a temporary basis," Gush explained. "There's so much foot traffic here, especially on the weekend, so why not help other people by having a retail gallery for them?"
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ... For those who claim there's an overabundance of coffee shops, upscale restaurants and nail salons in downtown Palo Alto, there may be some relief in the form of an unusual business. It's called BHuman, and although its official designation is "restaurant," it's also part art gallery, part lecture hall and part event center. "Let's just call it an innovation center," said BHuman co-founder and entrepreneur Ari Eisenstat. Located at 233 University Ave. in the former space of Workshop Burger and before that, Bella Luna Ristorante, BHuman is "a work in progress," according to Eistenstat and his business partner, Kyle Mills, both 26 years old. There was an overwhelming curiosity about the new venture last weekend, when BHuman held an invitation-only grand opening party. Nearly 200 people attended the event, which featured a hand-made classical harpsichord, 7-foot-tall acrylic obelisks, colorful mobiles hanging from the ceiling and a variety of food and drink. Among the highlights was the "Space Palette": an interactive instrument that allowed individuals to wave their hands through holes in a wooden frame to create music and painted visuals. A few partygoers described the event as "Burning Man-inspired," referencing the annual week-long festival in Nevada that promotes unfettered creative expression. Eisenstat and Mills, who met at Draper University's entrepreneurial program in San Mateo, have big plans for BHuman, which will be open to the public in less than a month, according to Eisenstat. "The restaurant will be opening soon, and we're inviting celebrity chefs and food technologists into our kitchen to cook," he said.
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