After writing about this man for at least 30 years, you’d think I’d run out of passion for his cooking. But then you would be among the very few who are un-woke to the genius of India Joze and the eponymous Jozseph Schultz. Every year he spent traveling, tasting, and cooking around the world—and there were many—shows up in his menu, a confident gastrotour through Persia, Cambodia, India, Turkey, Vietnam, and Greece, among others.
Every bite I took of our substantial pickup meal was filtered through memories of Joze past. Yet the food is as good as ever. You can taste the chef’s energy and intelligence in each dish, which included (where are new adjectives when you need them?) a pad thai ($14) with basa fish filet and vegetables, with fresh cilantro and peanuts to play with, in a spicy sauce that takes your tastebuds on a joyride. With it we feasted on the legendary Persian chicken ($19), wok’d with mushrooms in a mint-pomegranate-cream reduction. Oh God.
But it was a humble dish of sumac spuds ($5), red potato wedge-cut fries tossed in black pepper and sumac, one of the world’s underrated spices, that went supernova. With it came Joze organic ketchup—also life-changing. The guy in my house hoarded the sumac spuds, carefully portioning out potatoes for three days! Sumac spuds with ketchup. Sumac spuds the next day with eggs. Sumac spuds the next day all by themselves. Just so damn good. Plus those crisp, light pappadam bean wafers ($3) for dipping into assorted chutneys and sambals ($2). Also a coco bomb dessert, essentially a giant soft coconut macaroon ($3) ringed with dark muscovado sugar.
Part of the special fun of Joze’ menu is the anticipation of complex spicing, whether in the wok’d entrees, like the fiery intense chili handling of the pad thai—a heat that became unobtrusive after a few bites—or the jewel-hued chutneys. We sampled the incredible Indonesian soy/jalapeno ketchup, a raisin/ginger chutney, and another condiment of cashew, mint, chili, and lime. All equal in their flavor diversity and each somehow perfect with each dish, suggesting to me that on some celestial plane all spices ultimately belong in a single fusion.
Incredibly, chef Jozseph can manage to put together a coherent take-out dinner, even though each complex dish must be cooked sequentially. This style of cooking makes sense if diners can sit down, sipping drinks and watching the action in the kitchen as the various dishes arrive one at a time. But it must be insanity to undertake sophisticated preparation of multiple dishes that have to go out all at once. Yet India Joze can do this with focus, expertise, and playfulness. Each dish contains the chef’s wit as well as his culinary wisdom. Miraculous prices.
I intend to eat my way through the India Joze menu. And then begin all over again. Don’t miss the hottest chef in town still cooking like it was the golden age of Santa Cruz dining. Call, order, pay, park, receive food. That’s it.
India Joze, 418 Front St., Santa Cruz. Curbside pickup Tuesday-Saturday, 5-8:30pm. Indiajoze.com.
I took delivery of our first local King salmon of the season a few days ago, thanks to this enterprising fish and produce team. Dreamy salmon; great price. More details are coming in the next column.There are more openings around the county! I’m excited to have Gayle’s Bakery and Rosticceria open 11am-5pm and Oswald open Wednesday-Saturday, 4-8pm, with both back online offering curbside pickup menus. Persephone is open Wednesday-Saturday 11:30am-2pm in Aptos, making lunch sandwiches so beautiful as to defy belief. The Mediterranean is a mouthwatering creation of sliced lamb, feta, cucumber, pepper cress and mint mayo on house made ciabatta.
Farmers’ Markets Return
The Felton Farmers’ Market will start its 2020 season on June 2. The Scotts Valley Farmers’ Market will open June 6. Find more details at santacruzfarmersmarket.org.
Check out our continually updating list of local takeout and delivery options.