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Jul 25, 2008 09:47 AM

Ethnic restaurants with good wine lists?

Most non-European ethnic restaurants that serve wine just have a few casually selected California wines, which often don't match the food at all.


Slanted Door has a lot of Austrian whites that match well with its Chinese-Vietnamese food.

Bodega Bistro (also Vietnamese) has a longer and more varied list than average but the selection could be better.

Troya (Turkish) has a nice list.

Chama Garden has half a dozen Navarro wines.

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  1. The original location of Amber India was known for having a good wine list, so the new one in SF should be up to similar standard.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jsgjewels

      Ajanta's isn't bad, either, though its reds could use more variety.

      Mint Leaf has an extensive wine list, not surprising since the owner converted it from a wine bar.

      1. I think you could say the same about restaurants of any ethnic stripe until their pricepoint gets up to the level that can support a wine list and inventory. Jeffrey's Hamburgers in Menlo Park offers an unnamed Chardonnay, Merlot and White Zin by the glass, for example, which matches the burger best?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          I'm thinking of it the other way around.

          If I'm in the mood to drink wine with my meal and am craving a hamburger, there are quite a few places where I could be happy.

          If I'm craving Cantonese steamed fish, Korean barbecue, Japanese grilled mackerel, it's more of a challenge.

          Champa Garden's a great example of a moderately priced place that offers much better then average wine with a very small inventory. Jai Yun, on the other hand, is a relatively expensive place that's losing a lot of potential profit by not stocking anything appropriate for the food.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I don't doubt that. But I was just pointing out that if I edit your first sentence like this to include the entire universe of restaurants, you can see that it applies across the board.

            "Most restaurants that serve wine just have a few casually selected California wines, which often don't match the food at all."

            Good wine lists are the exception, no matter where they're found.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              In my experience, when a Bay Area restaurant that serves American or European food has just a few casually selected California wines, I almost always find the food as uninteresting as the wine list.

              Restaurants that serve cuisines that don't have a wine tradition generally don't have good wine lists regardless of how great and wine-friendly the food is. So I'm interested in learning of exceptions.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                A place that lets you drink good wine with an ethnic dish is not necessarily a place that has a "good wine list" in the traditional sense of having a lot of interesting choices.

                Hyderabad House in Palo Alto has perhaps the ultimate in the well-selected wine list for an Indian restaurant: two Indian wines, Sula Sauvignon Blanc and Sula Shiraz, that are interesting, good values, and go great with the food. And they are available by the glass or by the bottle.

                I went to one of those fancy $100/person Indian restaurants in London. It had a great wine by the bottle list but the by the glass list was really boring. They had the Sula wines by the bottle but I couldn't convince them to let me have just a glass, so I wound up with beer. If I'm not dining in a group I'll take Hyderabad House's 2-wine list over the pages and pages elsewhere since they're two great wines for the cuisine!


                1. re: mdg

                  I'm pretty sure Robert meant "good wine list" in the same way you do. He mentioned Champa Garden, which only offers a few selections from Navarro -- maybe four or fives different wines, total -- but they're ones that go pretty well with the food.

                  I think with a lot of places -- including some "American" restaurants but also many ethnic restaurants -- since the owners don't know much about wine they just order up whatever the first wine rep they run into is pushing (mid-range lines from big producers like Gallo, Mondavi, Beringer, etc.). That way they get a "line" of wines with recognizable names, plus the little signs that go on the table all in one package.