If there is a thread running through the rise of modern Indian food in Silicon Valley, it’s chef Sachin Chopra. In 2003, Chopra moved from New York to California to be part of the launch team and executive sous chef for Santana Row’s Amber India, arguably the first contemporary Indian restaurant in Silicon Valley.
From there, he went on to be executive chef at Palo Alto’s Mantra for two years. In 2009, he was the opening chef at Sakoon, a contemporary Indian restaurant in Mountain View. His stay there didn’t last long, and he decamped to open All Spice in San Mateo in 2010. Now, he’s got his hands in Arka, a new modern Indian restaurant in Sunnyvale.
Esquire magazine named Chopra one of four “chefs to watch” in 2011 for his cooking at All Spice. As consulting chef at Arka, he and executive chef Surbeer Rawat have created a menu of traditional Indian food with a hip sensibility sourced from local ingredients.
The restaurant is one of a growing number of high-style Indian restaurants in Silicon Valley. Arka’s menu draws on all regions of Indian with standards like tandoori kebabs, biryanis, curries, dosas and uthappams. Looks for dishes like mahi mahi with lemongrass and kaffir lime served with roasted portobello mushroom fritters, eggplant dosa stuffed with eggplant and chile peppers flavored with tamarind, coconut and peanuts, and butter chicken in a fenugreek-flavored creamy tomato sauce.
The 200-seat restaurant distinguishes itself from the most Indian restaurants with its sustainable-seafood choices, organic ingredients and a wine list that features biodynamic and sustainably produced West Coast wines. There’s an inventive cocktail list, too, with drinks like the Smokey Bandit, with mezcal, muddled pineapple, brown sugar and lemon; and the Farmer’s Market cocktail, a drink that showcases seasonal produce.