“Old fashioned food is becoming relevant,” says Angie Corrente, owner of Doma Kitchen in Manhattan Beach, California. The Ukrainian-born restauranteur runs the chic space with her husband, who is from Uzbekistan, in Central Asia. Their two cultures meet in the restaurant’s international cuisine that emphasizes Eastern European dishes and Central Asian techniques. When they relocated from their Redondo Beach location earlier this year, the former Levi’s jeans designer drew on her creative background for inspiration, repurposing all wood from the old location to decorate the new space.
“Doma” means home in the Slavic language and the restaurant owners’ genuine hospitality shines through in every touch: from the bright, funky pillowcases lining the booths to the artwork from local artists displayed on the walls. In the new location, Sommelier Courtney Walsh crafted a beverage list to showcase wines of the region, which typically have lower acidity (12 percent versus 14.5 percent in California wines) and better complement the cuisine than the previous wine list that primarily featured Italian and California wines.
Today’s diners crave a sense of place—a terroir, if you will—that fusion and overcomplicated food cannot offer. California and Croatia have both found a home on Doma’s new wine menu, but, for one night, we were fully immersed in the experience of Eastern Europe through its unique wines and distinct food from Lithuanian Chef Christina Miksyte.
Dish: Manchego, Humboldt Fog, Taleggio, fig jam and crispy crostini
Paired with: Szőke Mátyás Királyleányka 2014 Hungary
Corrente draws our attention to the housemade honey roasted almonds that accompany the cheese plate: they were churned out of a Greased Lightning-pink machine imported from Ukraine. To balance the rich cheese board that serves as the opener to the evening, we gulp rapidly from our wine glasses, filled with a sippable treat called Szőke Mátyás Királyleányka that is produced at the foot of the Mátra mountains, where vines have been planted since the 11th century. The family-owned winery sits at the base of Hungary’s highest peak, Kékes, where clay soil and a moderate climate yield a bright and refreshing wine that resembles a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
Dish: Borscht with beets, cabbage and served with Bavarian dark bread
Paired with: Bernreiter Grüner Veltliner 2014 Austria
Miksyte substitutes the typical beef broth for a rich, spicy, savory lamb broth that complements the hearty tang and crunch of beets and cabbage; we politely dip our Bavarian rye bread into the side of sour cream provided, until we are instructed to dump the whole thing in and muddle the clear broth flecked with dill. Our sweet wine mellows out the spice: we find Austria’s most widely planted variety quite food-friendly, bursting with citrus and fruit.
Dish: Plov with simmered rice and natural grass-fed lamb
Paired with: Vinoterra Kisi 2012 Georgia
With a reported 300 or more different styles of plov out there, this one-pot dish of simmered rice and vegetables with Uzbek origins yields endless flavor combinations, typically with lamb fat, onions and carrots as the base. The comfort food gets a gorgeous update with hearty garbanzo beans, turmeric and bright white raisins. A food so rooted in tradition perfectly mirrors the Vinoterra Kisi 2012 Georgia orange wine paired with it—possibly the first wine ever made. The Georgian amber is borne out of a long tradition of winemaking that includes leaving grapes in contact with the skin, seeds and ripest stems during fermentation in clay vessels called kvevri.
Dish: Vareniki potato dumplings topped with caramelized onions, shiitake mushrooms and a side of sour cream
Paired with: Štoka Teran Rose 2014 Slovenia
We can’t get enough of these plump, potoato-filled dumplings that resemble pierogi; the combination of them with this light mineral rose was divine. Štoka Teran Rose 2014 Slovenia grapes grow in iron-rich soil in an area dubbed on of the most severe and unique terroirs in the world.
Dish: Kasha and El Segundo’s J. Joseph Family Sausage Company bratwurst
Paired with: Geyerhof Familie Maier Zweigelt 2014 Austria
A toasty, hearty buckwheat-based dish with juicy pickled tomatoes, heavily seasoned bratwurst and whole grain and dijon mustards calls for an equally hearty red wine, which we found in Geyerhof Familie Maier Zweigelt 2014 Austria.
Dish: Grass-fed lamb stroganoff with hand-cut fries and French beans
Paired with: Dubrovački Crljenak 2012 Croatia
The stunner dish of the night, this rich and earthy stroganoff paired perfectly with this herbal, earthy, high acid wine from a grape that nearly went extinct and has been discovered to be an exact DNA match to Zinfandel.
Paired with: Rosenhof Orion Eiswein 2010 Austria
We ended the evening with a modest bite of Italian fritters (zeppole) with ricotta, housemade chocolate and raspberry sauce. The caramely, not cloyingly sweet ice wine—made from grapes that freeze on the vine and yield a concentrated wine with high acidity—proved a refreshing finish to our tour of Easern Europe.
With its reliance on local purveyors and artists, while championing the wine and cuisine of Eastern Europe, Doma Kitchen finds a place to call home—and welcomes diners into its doors to do the same.