Kavitha Raghavan. Photo by Sweet Light Studios.
Green peas (pattani) sundal and Sancerre. Photo via Indian Paradox on Facebook.
When a beer and wine license filing for a place called ~INDIAN PARADOX~ for 258 Divisadero hit the wires a few weeks ago, I wasn’t only happy because an Indian place appears to be opening soon near hopper HQ, but more so because the name on the license was Kavitha Raghavan, a tablehopper reader, and host of the Indian Paradox pop-up, a wine pairing and Indian food event (with idlis, bhel puris, sundals, and dahi sev puris) she has hosted at 18 Reasons and Fat Angel. She was away in Chennai for a wedding, but she has returned; we were able to catch up and now we can release the details.
Kavitha is an electrical engineer, but wine is her true passion: she has been studying hard (she passed the Certified Specialist of Wine exam and is a Certified Sommelier [level 2] exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers), working at wine bars, writing a blog, and along the way was inspired to create a new concept. As Kavitha has been learning more about wine, she can’t believe that beer is always such the default pairing for Indian food. As she says, “How can the food of a billion people always be paired with just beer (or riesling)?” So it has been her passion and quest to find wines that pair well with Indian food and spices, like the high-acid wines of Northern Italy and wines without much oak.
She also loves the street food of India, calling it the soul of the country’s cuisine. So you can see where this is going… Kavitha is going to be opening a casual place, featuring street food and chaat from India with international wines. She wants to make guests feel like they are drinking wine on the streets of India—with the energy and color and upbeat vibe of that scenario—paired with street food from all over India, a delightful mash-up of East and West, a little bit Bollywood and a little bit French (although wines will be from all over the world). The paradox in action!
She keeps seeing the same street food dishes on menus here in the Bay Area and wants to feature new ones. She grew up in Chennai, so she wants to include some dishes from the beaches of home, like grilled corn and sundal (a chickpea salad with coconut), plus she is considering dishes from other regions, like dabeli (boiled potato, dabeli masala, chutney, and sev, all pressed in a pav [bun]), and dishes from Kolkata, like churmur (a crunchy and sweet-and-sour dish with chickpeas and potato), and ghoti-gorom (a cone full of sev, onion, green chile, and fruit). These dishes aren’t set in stone, but it’s to give you an idea of what she’s currently testing and tasting!
Kavitha has been working on this idea for years (more than five!) and finally found her dream location: the Divisadero Corridor (it’s her favorite neighborhood). Indian Paradox will be opening in the former King Foot Subs space and will have a variety of counter seats, tables, and some high tables for perching as well. She is pleased the space has soaring ceilings and plenty of windows as well.
She is thinking of opening in the afternoon and serving until midnight or so, and will consider opening earlier in the day, brunch, and later hours as she feels out the neighborhood and what it needs. Right now, the hoped-for opening is early December—she is pushing hard. Kavitha is also looking for someone who can assist her in the kitchen, and help her develop and fine-tune the recipes while relating to her vision. We’ll let you know when the opening is close, can’t wait for this one. Follow along on Facebook for upcoming pop-ups and more. 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.