“An open note to all those who live below 86th street” – Please stay away from my new home away from home. Seriously, if I see any LES, Brooklynites, Murray Hill, Chelsea, Tribeca, West Siders, or anyone else who does not belong in this area on the UES crowding up my new home and taking up my seat at the bar I will have to kill you. Painfully, tortuously, and slow.
All kidding aside Kaia Wine Bar is a must needed and welcome addition to this barren strip of land on 3rd Ave and 91 street. Nothing like this South African centric wine bar in the immediate area. Walking in you are invited to a warm, cozy, sexy, and dimly lit interior. Candles in small mason jars, on all the tables, and hanging in the front windows flicker with cool ambiance. The decor is modern-chic and calming. Large bar centers the room, dark wood tables and window counter seating line the stamped concrete floor, exposed brick wall, bench seating in the far corner, and funky retro looking lights hang above the bar. Old stove from 1919 leans against the far wall serving as an anchor and viewpoint when walking in. African inspired music plays in the background at a smooth level that never overpowers conversation.
I must say the the wine selections are fresh and exciting here. Many wines from Africa, Chile, New York, and other parts of the world. Not a gigantic selection, but easily you should be able to find one to satisfy the palate. They even have two wines on tap from North Fork winery on Long Island. The Malbec mix is delicious. A little dry with intense, rich flavor. The beer selection is also terrific here. Again, not a huge selection, but what they do carry is superb! Three beers on tap – Six Point Sweet Action, North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner, and Old Greenpoint Black Duck Porter. Bottled offerings include Tusker Lager, Lagunitas, Hitichino Red Rice Ale, Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale, Full Sail, Wolaver Oatmeal Stout, Ommegang, Geenflash IPA, and a few others. Wow! Just WOW!
And now for the orgasm inducing food here. Our waiter was terrific and took the time to explain everything on the menu here. As we did not know much about South African cooking this was a welcome learning experience. In fact, I saw this happen at most every table here. The staff is wonderfully happy to teach each diner about the great foods and wines/beers on the menu in a very fun and cordial way. We were never spoken down to as some wait-staff can do. I felt like they really cared about us as customers, and wanted us to have a meaningful dining experience.
Bread basket in a small collander bowl is placed on the table along with dipping oil and a small bowl of mixed nuts and spices to dip in. The favor of this is amazing and wakes up your senses for the main meal. We ordered the humorously named Bunnychow and the Kaape Sout Pannrkoek which is Cape May Pulled Pork Pancake. When placed on our table the plating of these meals themselves are inspired. The Bunnychow is masala chicken curry served in a large square bread bowl, with marinated banana slices on the side. Terrific curry flavor that did not overpower the taste of the chicken that was simmered to moist perfection. The pulled pork pancake is almost like a crepe filled with curry paste and delicious pulled pork. Small mushrooms and red pepper slices on top, along with a mango chutney sauce added to the side accentuates the flavor. Totally satisfying to say the least!
Now for the desserts – OMG! I wanted to cry in joy and jump through flaming hoops at the same time while eating these delicacies. We ordered the Grenadella which is a passion fruit custard with a half a passion fruit on the plate, and the Melva. Now, the Grenadella was very good, but the Melva made me melt with orgasmic bliss. It is basically an apricot jam sticky bread pudding, with sliced strawberries on top and a flavorful vanilla creme drizzled on the plate. One of the top ten desserts I have ever tasted. I wanted to walk over and hug the chef and cry.
The owners, Suzaan and Omar, both came over to our table to see how we liked our meals and ask what we thought about the place. Both are gracious, and really have a love and dedication for what they are doing here. Suzanne wants this place to feel like you are being invited into her home. After dinner we moved over to the bar and chatted more with them. Suzanne is incredibly sweet, funny, down to earth, and told us her story and about life in South Africa. At this point I had to try the Black Duck Porter and it was a perfect after dinner beer choice. Dark and coffee like, just like a good stout should be, and another glass of the North Fork wine. Just a perfect ending to a new dining experience.
They also have cheese and meat board selections on the menu to pair with the wines. Prices are in line for what they are serving here, and Suzaan told us the are looking for customer input as they will be tweaking the menu as they go along. Just a terrific place!
Kaia Wine Bar http://www.kaiawinebar.com/