Destination dining’s the goal for Los Gatos’ Eleven College Ave chef – The Mercury News

Restaurant News
Eleven College Ave recently opened at the former site of Nick’s Next Door in Los Gatos. Executive chef Suhail Karimi, who grew up in Milpitas and attended the Art Institute of California-Silicon Valley/Sunnyvale, says he envisions the restaurant as a destination dining spot for Los Gatos locals. (Courtesy photo)

The chef of the restaurant that’s replacing Nick’s Next Door wants to create a destination dining spot, so it’s appropriate that the name of the place is also its Los Gatos address.

“I envision this as the restaurant where you look across the patio and see one of your neighbors,” says Suhail Karimi, executive chef at Eleven College Ave. “This is the place where you can come a few times a week, but also for special occasions.”

A self-proclaimed “fat kid” who loves to eat, Karimi creates dishes that he’d enjoy eating himself. The adventurous diner will appreciate the chef’s Burmese roots, which exposed him to many flavors he describes as “acquired tastes.”

Karimi was born at Good Samaritan in Los Gatos and grew up in Milpitas. After attending the Art Institute of California-Silicon Valley/Sunnyvale, which closed last year, he pursued a bachelor’s degree at the San Francisco campus, where he was exposed to lots of ethnic cuisines and learned many tricks from his culinary colleagues.

Those who ate at Johnston’s Salt Box in San Carlos in 2018 or 2019 have already had a helping of his flavor combinations. He also worked as chef de cuisine at the British Bankers Club in Menlo Park and as executive chef at Big Ed’s Buzzard BBQ in Santa Clara.

At Eleven College Ave, Karimi will tap many of the sources he’s worked with over the years to bring him delicacies like fresh, line-caught king salmon from Bodega Bay, Mary’s chicken from Petaluma and cheeses from Cypress Grove. Cheese plates all feature a single creamery—about 6 ounces worth—along with bread and condiments like fig paste and rosemary marcona almonds.

“This is not a froufrou cheese plate,” he promises. “It’s enough for a late lunch or an early dinner.”

Mains include porcinio-coco rubbed pork chop paired with locally grown caramelized pink lady apples. This is served with locally grown Romano beans, glazed carrots and peach gastrique made in house.

Karimi makes his burgers from house-ground brisket, top round and ribeye, layered with heirloom tomato, caramelized onion, aioli, arugula and house pickle.

If you want fries with that, the chef insists on the medium-cut Kennebec variety, kept at room temperature to avoid cooling down the oil too much.

“I cook my French fries three times, so they are cooked perfectly,” says the chef, “really fluffy on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside.”

For vegetarians, there’s a late summer pasta dish with king trumpet mushroom, toybox squash, cacciocavalo, Meyer lemon and fried basil.

Karimi plans to change up the menu seasonally as ingredients become available. “I love asparagus, but when I can’t get any more California asparagus, it’s off the menu. Same thing with tomatoes.”

Building flavors is what Karimi’s food is all about. His soups, like miso butternut squash and carrot ginger, are vegan and gluten-free. “I don’t use cream or chicken stock,” he says. “I build deep flavors slowly. I want to showcase the actual flavor of the vegetables. I use a Vitamix to achieve the perfect texture.”

Among his favorites is a roasted wild mushroom soup, made without cream and garnished with tarragon and a bright, fruity finishing oil—Bozzano EVOO from Chico.

Karimi plans to utilize his expensive sous vide machine to create perfectly cooked chicken, beef and pork, as well as making some very exotic ice creams.

The restaurant has a solid cocktail program and a short but good wine list.

“We’re not a cocktail lounge or a wine bar,” says the chef “We serve classics at a fair price.”

Eleven College Ave is serving dinner Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Lunch service was in the works at press time.

To make reservations, visit or call 408-402-3072.

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