Yuva India gives customers taste of homemade authenticity

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 9:14 p.m.

Owners of an Oakland Indian restaurant pride themselves on deviating from the typical with their food offerings and the way they serve them.

Diners won't find a buffet at Yuva India on South Craig Street. But they will find an expansive menu that's become popular with college students, neighborhood locals and out-of-towners.

“I always had a passion for cooking,” says Navin Kohli, executive chef and owner with wife Tina, both natives of India. “I grew up watching my mother and grandmother cooking.”

Yuva's menu is based on those family recipes “with a modern touch,” Kohli says.

The restaurant, open since 2012, opts to focus on “quality not quantity,” he says.

Lunch items, all of which are served with tossed salad and basmati rice, include favorites such as the Yuva Lunch ($10.95), with chicken tikka masala, lamb curry and butter naan; the Spice Lunch ($9.95), with chicken, lamb or goat vindaloo, butter naan and tarka daal; and the Vegetarian Lunch ($8.95), with palak paneer or chana marsala and tarka daal.

Signature menu items featured on the dinner menu include Navin Kohli's favorite Kashmiri Goat Curry ($12.95), with goat simmered in rich onion curry with Kashmiri herbs and spices and finished with coriander. Tina Kohli likes the Goanese Lamb Vindaloo ($13.95) listed under House Dishes and featuring lamb braised in a tangy hot sauce infused with garam masala, garlic and vinegar.

“Snacks” ($1.50 to $6.25) include samosa, pakora, bhel puri and a variety of naan. Flavors of lassi, a yogurt-based drink, include mango, strawberry, sweet mint and cumin and badam ($3.75).

Dessert highlights include the traditional Indian version of carrot cake, Gajar Ka Halwa with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($4.25), and Kulfi ($4.25), made of pistachio and malai.

Yuva also offers a wine-and-beer list, featuring some brands from India, such as the Sula Shiraz ($8 a glass), a medium-bodied wine with ripe-cherry and plum fruit and black pepper flavors, and Chenin Blanc ($7), a semi-dry light wine with pineapple and stone-fruit flavors.

The menu is clearly marked to indicate vegan-friendly, gluten-free and vegetarian options. There is not, however, a numerical scale to determine spiciness. Homemade chilie paste is used to up the heat factor for those with an affinity for spicy.

“We try to keep it very authentic,” Tina Kohli says. “In Indian homes, you are not asked ‘1 to 10,' you're asked ‘mild, medium or spicy.' ”

Yuva's decor is inviting with rich red, orange and green accents on the seating, hardwood floors, spiral lights and enlarged photos of day-to-day Indian life.

Yuva India, 412 South Craig St., Oakland, is open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch every day but Sunday and from 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 5 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. Details: 412-681-5700 or find Yuva India Indian Eatery on Facebook.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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