You’d be forgiven for ignoring the cocktail menu upon arriving at the spectacular, grand second outpost of the modernized Southern Indian inspired restaurant Dosa, on Fillmore between Japantown and Pacific Heights. It has to be at least twice the size of the cozy original on Valencia on the Mission. The lengthy food menu will mesmerize you for a good fifteen minutes. I’ll point you you towards the Chennai Chicken, the Dahi Vada lentil dumplings, and obviously, any dosa, for starters.
For now, focus on Dosa’s riveting “Spice Route” cocktail list. It’s possibly San Francisco’s most underrated and one of its most ambitious cocktail programs. Curiously, Dosa has a unique specialty in gin cocktails and barrel aged gin flights. Yes, this is the place to enjoy a Gimlet, albeit a “Bengali Gimlet” with curried nectar added. No, you don’t want the signature “Peony” cocktail unless you want a lassi with booze. Yes, it’s pink, but it’s no Cosmopolitan. I didn’t mind it. It’s just that a screeching sweet, thick, coconut milk based drink just doesn’t hit the spot like the rest of the menu. Have it at lunch. Then again, at least nine out of ten drinks crafted at the bar seemed to be the “Peony,” so it’s popular any time of day or night.
Seriously, the drink deserving the spotlight and the accolades is the “Emerald Monk.”
O.k., it’s not gin based, but we’ll more than survive. Served up in a chilled coupe, you first notice the mellow, slightly kiwi-syrupy nature of Green Chartreuse, balancing out Wodka Polish Rye Vodka. Some lime juice is added, then the flash of chili agave syrup.
No, this is nothing like a Margarita. The final addition, fresh ginger (think of the robust spice of the freshly grated root that goes atop a khao man gai, instead of ginger beer) adds a dramatic dimension with the chili agave that makes the drink almost combustible. Watch out! Until the other components mellow everything out.
Think of the final descent on “Splash Mountain”, the crescendo of the splash, and the calming victorious final lap home.
The drink is barely emerald in color, but can get away with it. Really, it’s too pale green to be emerald.
The monk part? This is a stretch, but the same adventure in strength and power of this cocktail can be experienced with many Belgian Trappist brews.
If this is the house cocktail in the Emerald City, I’m off to see the Wizard…or Monk.