Indian Paradox's Unlikely Pairings Prove Popular With Divisadero Diners

Back in March, we reported on the opening of Indian Paradox, a bar that pairs two unlikely elements: quality wine and traditional Indian street food.

Just about nine months into its tenure on Divisadero, owner Kavitha Raghavan said she's taken a deep liking to the neighborhood, and the feeling is mutual.

"I was already familiar with this neighborhood and community, so I knew what I was getting into," said Raghavan. "So far, everybody's been into the concept and they've been trying new things. Overall, we've gotten great feedback and it's been a positive experience."

Wine with Masala Peanuts | Photo: Kavitha Raghavan

Raghavan said a majority of her custojmers learned of Indian Paradox via word of mouth or by just passing by on the street. Although some are a bit confused by the juxtaposition of Indian street food and wine, they quickly come around and enjoy exploring new flavor profiles, she added.

"What we're doing is very different from people's perception of Indian food. They will ask for curry or naan, and we don't have either. It becomes a learning experience for both us and them, and it's been rewarding to educate customers when they come in," Raghavan said.

Raghavan's intention was to create a casual environment where people could discover real-deal street food — while sipping some snazzy wine.  "Indian street food is the soul of Indian cuisine," she said. "Everybody who grew up there is familiar with these spices and flavors." 

Opening a restaurant based on such a unique concept "is kind of an uphill battle in the sense that it's something so new and different," said Raghavan, but she said she engages diners directly to educate them about the menu and make recommendations. 

Bhel puri, which consists of "crispy crackers, puffed rice mixed with jaggery and mint chutneys, tomatoes, potatoes and mango," all served in a cone. |Photo: Kavitha Raghavan

So far, the bhel puri ($12, pictured above) and the dahl sev puri ($13 — chutney-filled semolina puffs topped with yogurt — are among her top sellers. Other popular dishes include the dabelli ($15), a potato burger, as well as the lamb kabob, which is paired with a Spanish red blend ($18, $10). 

Raghavan said she hopes to start weekend brunch service early next year. The menu would include current items like the breakfast poha ($10), a flattened rice dish, as well as different breakfast items one might buy off a street vendor in India. 

Poha, a flattered rice dish. | Photo: Kavitha Raghavan

In the more immediate future, Raghavan has invited a henna artist to the restaurant on Thursday, December 22 from 6pm to 9pm; admission will be $10 per person.

"This has been one of the most exhausting times of my life but also one of the most exhilarating, and that's been because of all of the amazing people that have walked in," Raghavan said. "I'd really like to thank the neighborhood for validating the gut feeling I had about opening a restaurant here."

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