August 1 Five: A Take on Modern Indian Cuisine

Today, we’re talking about a major career shift that resulted in the creation of August 1 Five, a modern Indian cuisine and upscale dining experience, located in Civic Center. Hetal Shah, a former Googler, joined forces with chef Manish Tyagi to bring us colorful and flavor-packed Indian dishes with a Californian touch.

Stepping into the restaurant is just the beginning of a modern culinary journey through the taste of India. Diners are surrounded by jewel tone colors, reminiscent of the colors on a peacock feather. Furnitures are finished with golden accents giving the space a rich and vibrant vibe, just like the food you’re about to experience.

First item in our order was this Moneypenny G&T made with gin, yellow chartreuse, pineapple juice, lemon, combier rose, and tonic. If you know me, then you’d know that a girl can’t resist a good, old glass of gin and tonic; especially if there is a fancier version that includes more than two ingredients!

My dining partner and I decided to go all out and opt for the 4-course “prix fixe” option which lets to customize the dishes for $65/person. We felt that this was an incredible deal because it allowed us to try eight different dishes in one sitting (wowza, talk about a lot of food)! Basically, you can choose two appetizer style dishes, an entree, and finish off with a dessert. And because we’re major foodies, we couldn’t resist the chance to try the Trio of Naans with cheese/basil, bison, and potato/sage served with tomato chutney and a sweet, roasted eggplant paste.

Our first pick were Crab Blini: mixture of crab, black tellicherry pepper, tamarind, and curry leaf, served on top of a mini naan and yogurt spread. These were perfect little bites packed with flavor, which set the tone for a great meal. The other first-course option we chose had to be a Gol Cuppa Flight: lightweight, bowl-shaped wheat puffs with chaat masala and potato. They’re made to be filled with various waters (grape, tamarind, mint-cilantro, mango, and fruit punch) and are commonly consumed as street snacks in India. I’ve been craving to try this, aka pani puri, ever since I heard about them on an episode of The Sporkful with Padma Lakshmi. My next bucketlist item is to go visit India and try one right off the street.

Next, we ordered a Sweet Potato Chaat: fried cubes of sweet potato served with an avocado sauce, orange dust, tamarind, and date. To be honest, I thought this dish was ok. Compared to the savory and robust flavors of the two previous dishes, this fell flat for me. The avocado sauce was a little bland and sweet potato cubes tasted just like a plain, old sweet potato. However, the presentation did not disappoint and we were continuously impressed with the vivid colors of each dish served on a dark platter for extra contrast.

I also enjoyed a new variation of paneer through the Paneer Kebab: grilled pieces of paneer with red chili paste, yogurt, and mint. The firm texture of paneer was good but again, flavors were more mild compared to the previous two dishes.

Our culinary experienced picked right up when our entrees arrived. I got the Lobster dish served with coconut milk, curry leaves, mustard seeds, lemon, and salad. The meat was poached perfectly and the surprising combination of seafood and curry was delightful. Our second entree was Lamb Chops crusted in cashew paste served with yogurt, cheese, mace, and mushroom. They were both equally delicious and cooked to perfection.

By the time dessert came around, it was way too dark for me to get a good shot of the two we ordered. We tried Ghevar and a season Kulfi served with a bright pink, rose flavored noodle of sorts, which was really interesting.

Overall, my experience at August 1 Five was one to remember and will definitely recommend to friends looking for a fancy new place to try for date night and special dinners.

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