The third iteration of Mina Test Kitchen is poised for its debut tomorrow (March 1), this time reinventing itself as an Indian-focused concept called The Company. The idea is a familiar one: a restaurant of the same name almost opened in 2012, the passion project of Mina Group's wine director Rajat Parr. Unfortunately the space fell through deep into construction, and the project was put in a holding pattern.
Now, The Company's next incarnation promises a menu of bold flavors from chef Vikrant Bhasin (an alum of Michael Mina), accompanied by cocktails, and a specially curated wine list from Parr, who gave Eater some tips on the difficulties of pairing with Indian food. As with any food that incorporates a variety of bold spices and flavors (like tamarind, cardamom and turmeric), choosing wine pairings can be challenging. Luckily, Parr has years of experience cooking Indian food— in the kitchens of his mother and grandmother. Combined with years of tasting and producing wines, Parr's list is set to prove that great pairings are out there for every cuisine. Despite dissenters who say "you can't have wine with Indian food," Parr says that he's been drinking great wine with the cuisine for years. The key, says Parr, is to choose "easy drinking" wines, not big, fancy wines.
According to Parr, riesling and lower alcohol syrah are always great choices for pairing with Indian food. "One thing Indian food doesn't like is a lot of new oak," warns Parr. "Forget any style with new oak, or very high alcohol, like 13 percent." Wines from delicate grapes like Pinot Noir will be fine, but "it's not going to be a revelation." Other great red options include cabernet franc, gamay and beajolais; whites are usually riesling, chenin blanc, muscadet and some sauvignon blancs.
For The Company, Parr pared it down to a very small, curated list of mostly German riesling and American syrah. "Every wine is made by my friends," said Parr. "It's a very personal list. Every bottle is something I drink regularly: someone's first vintage, or something that they only made a few barrels of." That includes some of Parr's own wines, which he produces in Santa Barbara.
As for cocktails, this is the first time that the Test Kitchen's pop-up has offered the hard stuff, as it just recently obtained the appropriate liquor license. For the first cocktail menu, Parr worked with the team to develop drinks that channeled the flavors of the East Indies, incorporating some of the flavors of the food. Low alcohol, refreshing cocktails are the key, said Parr. "They'll make you want to drink a second one, to go with the spicy food." In keeping with the East Indies theme, all drinks are made with gin (Parr's own brand, Calyx), like the Sgt. Pepper made with black pepper, almond, cumin and pineapple. There's also a bottled punch on hand, flavored with lemon, mango, cardamom, dry curacao.