.Fitoor Restaurant Delivers Plated Precision

Good Times restaurant group’s latest venture settles in on Santana Row

The menu descriptions of Fitoor’s pan-Indian dishes, minimal as they are, don’t adequately prepare diners for their arrival at the table. They’re inventively plated and almost universally pretty enough to star on social media feeds. Chef Vaibhav Sawant’s culinary approach and imagination defy expectations, especially when something sounds simple.

“Chili cheese dust” are the only three words written beneath an entry for burst chicken koliwada ($20). There’s a precision to the presentation. Each piece is crowned with a halo of fresh, green, finely minced herbs.

But the artfully immaculate plate looks inviting, not fussy. Deep-fried with a delicate golden brown crust, the chicken inside is succulent and spiced up to banish the concept of blandness from the mind. It’s the kind of dish that, after ordering it, doesn’t summon up a single doubt or regret.

The duck ghee roast ($25) is served in a scarlet red sauce that drips, molten-slow, down the sides of and into a spongy white rectangular rice cake. Chef Sawant confits the duck overnight until it’s utterly tender. An impossible feat for most home cooks.

It’s inaccurate to compare the flavor profile to a bolognese sauce but the dish does exist in the same universe of highly satisfying comfort foods. It’s a complete reinvention of a sloppy joe sandwich—petite, open-faced and a thousand times more elegant.

THE NEW WAVE Chef Vaibhav Sawant’s immaculate dishes look inviting, not fussy. Credit: Neetu Laddha Photography

Like its cohorts, the entry for “textures of mushrooms” ($22) abruptly stops at one misleading word, “truffle.” For first-time Fitoor visitors, the menu’s vagueness elicits a series of question marks rather than fulfilling its ordained purpose in a restaurant’s life—to whet diners’ appetites. While our servers kindly and patiently took the time to explain the idea behind each item, I did wonder if the next iteration of the menu, with more comprehensive descriptions of preparations and ingredients, would make everyone’s job easier.

“Textures” actually had less to do with truffles and more to do with a delicious fantasia of more familiar fungi. Bathing in a mushroom gravy, one sautéed mushroom patty rested at the center of a plate surrounded by a loosely assembled wreath of mushroom slivers. It was unclear why “truffle” was singled out to entice the reader since its unique flavor was scant to trifling at best. Otherwise, this wasn’t just a celebration of mushrooms—it was a rave.

Visually stunning, kataifi crusted labneh croquettes ($22) was the lone dish whose style outshone its substance. Drenched in a bright red bell pepper coulis, the croquettes themselves were texturally challenging.

Kataifi is a shredded filo pastry dough that, in this case, didn’t crisp up. The center of the croquette was also mushy, perhaps softened down by the ruby-colored coulis. But the excess sauce didn’t go to waste. We used bread to sop it up—a tandoori roti ($6), which was flaking apart like torn lace, and the more substantial malabar paratha ($8).

The dessert course, a pistachio puff gujia ($15), was draped in an expensive-looking, edible silver paper. Chef Sawant explained that his gujia was a take on baklava with a pistachio paste in the middle of the pastry. What also distinguished it from common baklava was the kheer mousse forming a foamy moat. It offset the sweetness with a welcome creamy tang.

Fitoor is open Sun–Thu 11:30am–9:30pm, Fri–Sat 11:30am–10:30pm, brunch Sat and Sun 11:30am–3:30pm. 377 Santana Row #1140, San Jose; 408.705.2233; eatdrinkfitoor.com.

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