The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2014

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40  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2014 WHAT WE'RE EATING W hile the drinks and wine list are both creative and extensive, at San Francisco's popular South Indian restaurant, Dosa, the food menu is king, and Wine Director Todd Smith is a most loyal subject. He is so committed to understanding South Indian cuisine that he traveled to Tamil Nadu last November, taking the opportunity to visit the family of Dosa's Executive Chef Vijay Kumar. More than five years of professional camaraderie and a mutual respect has lent to the ideal collaboration between the two gentlemen. Watch them in action together and the synergy is natural— jovial even. Dosa's dishes contain anywhere from 25 to 40 different ingredients, with spices and herbs running the gamut from woody coriander, smoky cumin, aromatic star anise, cilantro and curry leaves to spicy green Thai chilies and creamy coconut. The kitchen adheres to traditional South Indian cooking, which is wholly local and entirely seasonal. This means that ingredients change with the seasons in California, in turn lending to an ever-evolving wine and drinks menu. "For me, this is a painter's palette to work with. I never hit a wall with such diversity of flavors." Drinks Born in the Kitchen A happy marriage between bar and kitchen means cocktails are infused with the same South Indian spices that drive the food menu. Dosa bartenders "spend many hours in the same kitchen with [the] Tamil chefs, boiling and toiling away, making spice-infused nectars, tinctures and infusions," says Smith. "It is quite the mad science lab. They emerge with little medicinal bottles filled with potent potables which become the spice racks for our specialty drinks." A popular cocktail is the "Peony," a gin-based drink prepared with hibiscus masala nectar, coconut milk and chili. Specific Wine Pairings Smith likes a high-acid white with good fruit, like a Verdejo or an Indian Chenin Blanc, for Dosa's southern-style vegetable samosa, wrapped in rice husk instead of wheat and served with tamarind and mint chutneys. Dosa's Bhelpuri, a mixture of puffed rice, chopped red onions, mint, chickpeas and potatoes goes great with a Sauvignon Blanc—"Not a grassy New Zealand style, but more of a Sancerre or one from Mendocino, which can have pronounced fennel notes," he says. DahiVada is a crushed lentil dumpling submerged in organic yogurt, which Smith likes with a dry Riesling or tart rosé. "Drink a lot," suggests Smith, referring to wine pairings with cuisine outside the norm. "Record your intoxicated murmur- ings. Don't fear spice. Find what soothes it. What cleanses it. Be bold and don't fear failure. Not every pairing works, and I catch myself making mistakes, but be humble with that." AT SAN FRANCISCO'S DOSA, WINE DIRECTOR TODD SMITH FINDS MATCHES FOR SOUTH INDIAN CUISINE Spice Route Todd Smith (second from right), Wine Director of San Francisco's Dosa, trav- eled to India to visit the family of Executive Chef Vijay Kumar and his family. PHOTO: TODD SMITH by Marguerite Richards Todd Smith holding a traditional southern Indian dosa, with Chef Vijay Kumar. Dosa is a fermented bread made from rice batter and black lentils. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER PLANTE C M Y CM MY CY CMY K

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