Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Elmwood Shuffle: Holy Land out, Padi In

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 8:01 AM

A longtime favorite in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood has closed suddenly: Holy Land Restaurant (2965 College Ave.) had its final day of service last Tuesday, October 9, according to owner Niso Mizrachi. Taking its place will be a new Indonesian eatery called Padi Restaurant.

A popular purveyor of Jewish and Middle Eastern foods — of falafels and Yemeni flatbreads and a zippy cilantro-based hot sauce known as zhug — Holy Land had been open at its Berkeley location since 1997. But Mizrachi said keeping the business afloat has been challenging the past few years — a result of what he feels is the City of Berkeley’s overly lax enforcement of zoning regulations, which has allowed restaurants to open in former retail spaces and other buildings not previously zoned for food. The resulting glut of competition has, in his view, made it a lot more difficult for restaurants in that neighborhood to remain profitable.
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Holy Lands remaining Oakland location (via the Holy Land website).
  • Holy Land's remaining Oakland location (via the Holy Land website).
Mizrachi isn’t sure what his next step will be — whether or not he’ll try to open another restaurant — but he stressed that Holy Land’s original Oakland location (677 Rand Ave.), run by his daughter, Miri Levy, will continue to operate as usual. Mizrachi said he hoped that loyal Berkeley customers would bring their business there.

“It’s the same family, the same food,” he said.

Although Holy Land’s closure seemed to have occurred with no warning, it has apparently been in the works for some time. Jimmy Sujanto, the owner of Padi, said he first found out about the College Avenue location a few months ago, when he saw that Holy Land was on sale: a fully-equipped, fully-furnished restaurant in what he felt was a great location. According to Sujanto, the sale was finalized just last week, with the gist of the deal being that he has taken over the lease on the space.

Padi is Sujanto’s first restaurant venture, though he has decades of restaurant and food industry experience, most recently as the head of a catering business well known in the Bay Area’s Indonesian community — Sujanto said he would do mostly private events, often cooking at people’s houses for birthday parties and other celebrations.

Sujanto said the menu at Padi will be short and simple — maybe twenty dishes in all. Specialties will include Indonesian fish cakes and Sujanto’s homemade beef meatballs, the latter of which are served in a clear broth with rice noodles and greens.

Because the restaurant is already equipped and doesn’t require a major remodel — and because Sujanto already has all of the necessary permits in place — he said the turnover will be quick: Next Wednesday, October 24, Padi will have its soft opening. On that first day, everything on the menu will be thirty percent off. There will be a smaller discount — maybe fifteen percent — every day for the subsequent couple of weeks, leading up to an official grand opening sometime in early- to mid-November, Sujanto said.

Got tips or suggestions? Email me at Luke (dot) Tsai (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com. Otherwise, keep in touch by following me on Twitter @theluketsai, or simply by posting a comment. I'll read ‘em all.

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