Paired Dinner

Abhi’s cocktails and sakes enhance with his Asian fusion fare.

By Jan Walsh

Food and beverage pairings can be complex. So many flavors and so many rules! Considering similar weights, flavors, and intensity is not that easy. Then add acidity, tannins, plus sauces. Simplify by pairing beverages from the same region as the food. Sancerre with French food, Cianti with Italian, etc. Or better yet leaving the pairings to the pros. Here at Abhi Eatery and Bar, we are in good hands with Bartender Mona’s handcrafted cocktail list. We have her pair our dinner with drinks.

Familiar, friendly faces greet us: Abhi’s wife, Ainah; general manager, Ashish (Abhi’s close friend and mentee); nephew, Arya; and longtime server, Gwen. As we settle in with the menu. Gwen who has a photographic memory and follows me on social, quickly rolls off every dish and drink I had last time!

Yikes! If she remembers these, she must also remember that I am wearing the same Pashmina shawl, as every time I dine here. Thus, I share that it was a gift from Abhi’s mother, Mohini. Years ago, when Mohini cooked for us in Abhi’s home, she gave it to me as a gift. Abhi and his wife Ainah graciously planned the evening to experience the food his mother cooked for Abhi growing up. Abhi’s father, Laxmi also shared the table and evening with us for one of the most special meals and memorable evenings of our lives… Abhi authentically inspirited his loyal family sentiment to the culture of his restaurant. It is both seen and felt by all who open the escalator or climb the stairs.

We start with and Bittersweet Symphony and Billionaires Mistress. The symphony of tequila, lime, grapefruit, demerara sugar, and sparkling sauvignon blanc, is lovely, light, and food friendly, thus in harmony with all three apps. Oh, my! The mistress is a beautiful brunette and a sexy synthesis of Old Foresters 100, Fig Apple Sake, and caramel syrup. She is also playfully garnished with a cinnamon stick. Highly recommended… 1,000,000,000%!

Abhi’s menu is filled with favorite foods that we cannot live without. Yet new vibrant dishes tempt. Thus, dinner at Abhi always becomes a feast! We pair our drinks with three all-time favorite sharables: Mo:Mo, Lumpia, and Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce, although it is difficult to pass up other favorite apps, Coconut Curry Soup and Pork Belly with Steam Buns. Ahbi’s famous Mo:Mo are homemade steamed Nepalese turkey dumplings, which melt in the mouth enhanced by his Alabama tomato vinaigrette. I have been in the kitchen for a cooking demo when he made these darlings, so know first-hand the expertise and experience that is wrapped in every bite. The crisp, golden Lumpia is filled with turkey, carrot, celery, and water chestnut. Dipping in Abhi’s sweet sauce, these rolls are served with a déjà vu experience of my former favorites, Joy Young’s egg rolls. Kev and I both get our share of Udon Noodles. These chewy, springy noodles are mild in flavor, allowing the glistening peanut sauce’s sweet dense, nutty flavors to shine through. Ginger scallion sauce is also an option.

For our main courses, my goal was to order dishes we have not previously had. Kev opts for the Beef Bulgogi and I select the Tiger Roll. Yet after ordering I remember this Bulgogi from before, even though tonight’s presentation is very different. Atop a bed of fluffy, slightly sticky jasmine rice, Abhi’s “fire meat,” beef is layered after being grilled in his own Korean BBQ sauce. Deep, dark, smoky, sweet flavors of the tender meat meld with soy, ginger, and sesame, creating a tantalizing gusto. Crowning this hearty dish are green onions, carrots, sesame seeds. And a side of kimchi adds crisp, tartness. Kev pairs his beef with Sho Chiku Bai Mio Sparkling Sake. This low in alcohol sparkler boasts a gentle effervescence with fruity flavors that brighten the spicy beef with sweetness.

If you are not a sushi person but want to try a roll, I recommend this Tiger Roll. Pristine snow crab, creamy avocado, delicate cucumber, and succulent steamed shrimp is a lovely, mild, and mellow roll. Mine is presented showboat style! And I pair it with a refreshing Saketini cocktail of vodka, St. Germaine, lemon juice and sparkling sake. The cocktail does not overpower the delicate sushi roll, but instead focuses attention on the dish, spotlighting its flavors and blending with its condiments.

Wait, we are not finished with entrees... as Abhi wants us to try a new dish, Khao Soi Noodle Bowl. And we choose its protein, chicken. Both soft and crisp noodles unite in this complex bowl bursting with texture. We pluck out pieces of white meat chicken and long, interlacing egg noodles, both dredged in a divine, rich, velvety, coconutty Northern Thai curry. Cutting through the creaminess and rounding out the bowl are pickled mustard greens, onions, and cilantro. And crunchy fried noodles put the finishing touch on this splendid dish. Highly recommended!

Abhi also insists we experience his new dessert, Ube Cake. Like Abhi’s Ube Ice Cream, the cake is made of purple yams. Each dreamy layer is light and fluffy topped Ube buttercream frosting. The dessert is not too sweet, but nutty with hints of vanilla. It is paired with Mississippi Summers cocktail. This heavenly, frothy, thirst quencher delights with notes of honeysuckle, peach, lemon, and coconut. Like a pair of good Southerners, a drink named for summer in Mississippi plays well with a purple sweet potato dessert.

Every time we try something new, food or cocktails, it gets added to the favorites list. And I fear that eventually every dish and drink on the menu will become a favorite!

News! Abhi’s fare can now be enjoyed for both lunch and dinner at Abhi’s new fast, casual restaurant, MARO, just up the street.

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