Bay Area diners likely know Srijith Gopinathan as the star power behind San Francisco’s Taj Campton Place and Ettan in Palo Alto, where the chef weaves California’s seasonal bounty into Indian cuisine and has earned both restaurants Michelin recognition. But with his latest project, Oxford Lodi, the fine-dining chef is taking things in an entirely different direction, crafting a menu of simple English classics for a family-friendly restaurant in the heart of California’s Central Valley. The casual family-friendly restaurant officially opened in late 2021 but celebrated it grand opening earlier this month.
So, why Lodi? “You're not the first person to ask this question. It’s a question I asked myself when I was working on this project,” Gopinathan says with a laugh. The answer isn’t quite as complex as you might imagine. Gopinathan says his friend and business partner Narender Ramarapu wanted to make a real estate investment in the area, which is home to a robust and expansive wine appellation. He found a building and convinced Gopinathan to go in the project. For the chef, the draw is the community itself, which is home to many families but doesn’t have a depth of dining options, he says. More personally, the project also presented an opportunity to do something fun. “I don’t want to do anything serious,” Gopinathan says he decided. “If I do something, I’ll do something I really enjoy.”
The result is a restaurant that draws inspiration from the time Gopinathan spent living and working in England, where he fondly recalls finding excellent spanakopita on one corner and perfect fish and chips on the next. As such, the Oxford Lodi menu features shepherd’s pie, beef Wellington, and banoffee pie — but also chicken tikka masala, falafel, and lamb kebabs. “It’s not really an English place but things I enjoy eating,” he says. “Not just one cuisine, but what I saw in England that was a cross-section of amazing food.”
Gopinathan is particularly proud of the fish and chips. He’s using a recipe he came across when he was guest cheffing at Northcote in Manchester, and the beauty is in the simplicity, he says. Nothing more than batter made from flour, beer, and seasonings combined with the right kind of fish (cod or pollock) and proper temperature control produce a perfect crispy, crusty, golden outer layer.
To be clear, Gopinathan says he worked on the Oxford menus, but won’t be in the kitchen on a day-to-day basis. “Obviously, as you can imagine, I'm not going to be driving to Lodi every morning. It would be a long drive,” the Sunset resident says with a chuckle. For that reason he’s shying away from calling himself executive chef, opting instead for co-owner and founder. There’s also an original Oxford location in Sunnyvale, owned in part by his partner, but the chef isn’t a part of that restaurant. And importantly, San Franciscans need not worry — in addition to his upcoming counter Little Blue Door at State Street Market in El Alto, Gopinathan insists he’s not done with new projects the city.
“I’ve not given up on San Francisco,” the chef promises. “The city made me and took me where I am today. I have a lot of love and respect for the city.”