Enter Fitoor, Santana Row’s new contemporary Indian restaurant and lounge, and find yourself transported. The front room, a low-lit space swathed in dark-wood panels, rich earthy browns, and a plethora of plants, somehow gives the impression of a forest after midnight. The slat ceiling, carved into a wave of wood, seems almost to ripple with movement. A fire dancer mimics this motion, twirling flames in both hands as she sways to the music. When owners Anu and Vikram Bhambri, a husband-and-wife team, say they want their meals “presented in a lively and immersive setting,” they don’t mess around.

The goal, Anu explains, is “immersing guests in a sensory journey.” To achieve this, the couple collaborated with Manu Studios, the architecture firm behind MOMENT SP2 (those micro-retail storefronts across from San Pedro Square). “Each dining room offers a unique experience,” continues Anu, “from the inviting open-air facade to the sultry ‘Gold Room’ and intimate ‘Green Room.’” This suits the restaurant’s name, inspired by the Hindi word for “passion.” It’s a title that “embodies the fiery energy and soulful essence of modern-day India,” Anu shares.

But what is a restaurant without its food? Fitoor is so much more than a pretty face, and Chef Vaibhav Sawant takes obvious pride in his craft, creating appetizers and entrees that are intricately layered and immaculately plated. Each dish is served on a unique plate: cerulean serving platters, tree round boards, or pedestal trays with marble.

He’s also a maestro of texture. The Asado Branzino with coriander mint pesto is generously topped with salli (deep-fried potato straws), which, along with the crackle of the fish’s skin, adds a crunch to the buttery soft meat. There’s also a standout Indian-Japanese fusion dish that takes supple scallops in a peanut butter salan curry and embellishes them with the crunch of finely chopped onion, finely chopped nuts, and the pop of fresh roe.

“Specializing in grilled dishes infused with fiery energy and bold spices, Fitoor’s menu is designed to ignite culinary curiosity,” adds Anu. That means feisty flavors like spicy prawn balchão stuffed in fried kulcha bread and peppery lamb curry with coconut flakes and curry leaves. For some respite from the hotter dishes, the restaurant offers some creamy (and pleasingly unusual) cocktails like the Canchanchara (rum, gardenia mix, citrus, and black garlic) and the Milky Way (bourbon, port, banana, lemon, and cream cheese).

As for the sweet story behind Fitoor’s restaurateur power couple? Anu met Vikram through her parents while she was still living in India and he was working in the U.S. at Microsoft. “We talked on the phone without seeing each other for over six months before we actually met,” Anu recalls. The two became a force to be reckoned with, united in their shared dream to bring authentic Indian cuisine to the States. They now oversee a restaurant empire that also includes ROOH (which now has several locations), Pippal in Emeryville, and Alora on San Francisco’s Waterfront. Yet despite their success, the couple remain grounded, prioritizing family time by gathering around the dinner table. “Mealtime is generally family time at home,” Anu says. “We have three generations living together in the same house.” With warmth, she describes her mom making dishes while grandma makes bread in the tandoor. “During summer, it is accompanied by salted lassi or a raw mango (panna) drink to cool down the heat,” she says.

Anu and Vikram’s international concept is well suited for a place like Santana Row. “It’s a melting pot of diverse cultures and tastes,” Anu says of the area. Here, “people appreciate culinary innovation and cultural exploration.” A quick glance around the room at contented guests licking the last of the 72-hour pana cotta from their plates leaves no doubt—these seasoned restauranteurs know how to seek out the like-minded.


Instagram: @eatdrinkatfitoor

377 Santana Row #1140, San Jose, CA 95128

Photography by Neetu Laddha | Provided by Fitoor