Whether they’re serving up colorful new American fare at a Victorian home in El Camino Real in San Mateo or making plans to open a new restaurant at Half Moon Bay Airport, Sachin Chopra and Shoshana Wolff are drawn to unique spaces for their restoration projects.
Following the ninth anniversary celebration of their All Spice restaurant in San Mateo in November, the husband and wife team are full steam ahead on plans to open a cafe in the coastal space that once housed the 3- Zero Cafe.
With windows facing the General Aviation Airport and surrounded by local farms, the building once decorated with aviation memorabilia will once again be filled with sunlight and hanging plants after the month-long renovation project of the couple will have taken shape, explained Chopra.
After serving dinner at All Spice for nearly a decade, Chopra and Wolff envisioned what a breakfast and lunch menu might look like for their new beachfront restaurant, about 10 miles north of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1. According to a San Mateo County staff report, the 3-Zero Cafe was closed in March when the owner announced his retirement after 25 years of operation. At its November 5 meeting, the San Mateo County Supervisory Board approved a five-year lease agreement with Chopra and Wolff to operate a restaurant at the airport, which is managed by the county.
Although the couple have earned four Michelin stars in their nine years of operating restaurants in San Mateo and San Francisco, they are eager to focus on a smaller set of dishes made from quality ingredients and served in a family setting, Wolff said. . She said the couple plan to offer a selection of traditional dishes for breakfast and lunch – including egg bowls, sandwiches and toast – at prices similar to those offered at 3-Zero Cafe.
“It’s just beautiful, there is an incredible light inside,” she said of the building at 9850 Cabrillo Highway. “This is… not your traditional large square dining room in the mall… it is truly unique and has a special appeal to the people who come to watch the planes take off.”
Although Chopra and Wolff researched the right antique pieces to furnish All Spice at 1602 S. El Camino Real, they widely felt that the layout of the Victorian home met the needs of their clients as well as Chopra’s preferences as a that chef. Because the coastal space hasn’t been renovated in decades, the couple worked with a local architect to renovate the building’s kitchen and floor, among other changes, with the goal of opening their doors in April.
Since the couple opened All Spice, Sachin said the restaurant’s menu has evolved from dishes influenced by Asian and Indian cuisines to more modern dishes with many of the same spices and rooted in California ingredients. While the couple are eager to start a business much closer to their home on the coast, Sachin noted that their new business would give them the opportunity to try their hand at a more casual dining experience, where customers can order dishes. at the counter.
Chopra said he has long sought to create dishes that are noticeably different from what diners might find in other restaurants by experimenting with combinations of texture, preparation and ingredients. But he said he was eager to create a simpler menu for the couple’s coastal restaurant, adding that he hopes to work with local farms to incorporate crops grown on the coast.
“It will probably be good for our mental health,” he said. “It will be good for the business to hopefully make things easier.”
With the exception of a freshly baked sourdough bread the couple makes at All Spice, Chopra and Wolff said they don’t plan to move too many All Spice menu items to their new restaurant. Although Chopra has acknowledged that dishes like a Thai-inspired soup that he makes with carrots, lemongrass and cashews can go a long way in warming spirits on the Misty Coast.
With over 20 years of experience as a chef, Chopra opened a restaurant in New York City in 2001 and was part of the Amber India opening team at Santana Row in San Jose. Chopra noted that a shortage of restaurant workers in the Bay Area was a challenge, but said working with chefs and talented workers throughout his career has been very rewarding.
“I had really good people in my kitchens for a while,” he said. “It’s really nice for me to see them… grow up and move on to different things. “
With a master’s degree in viticulture and oenology, Wolff has also devoted much of his career to working in the restaurant business, and said sharing years of memories with diners in San Mateo made the hard work of management of a restaurant is worth it. She added that some of the All Spice staff had worked at the restaurant since it opened and had also developed a personal connection with many of their customers.
“People brought their children and over the years I have watched them grow up,” she said. “We’ve had a few wedding dinners and people… are coming back for their birthdays, that’s very sweet.”