Next Up at Wink & Nod: Gita
Gita Kantrow didn’t set out on her culinary career to share Nepali cuisine with Boston, but the chef’s debut concept, Gita, reflects her native land.
“In many ways, it makes sense that I lean toward it. I love spices, and the spices from home. At the same time, I’m mixing in what I grew up with here. It’s American food with traditional spices, that still has a familiar taste,” Kantrow says.
Check out a sample menu below.
Gita takes over the kitchen of the standout cocktail bar Wink & Nod on August 1, Eater Boston first reported. It’s the fifth concept that’s gone through the culinary incubator program by Boston Nightlife Ventures. Kantrow follows Pelekasis, the modern Greek concept by Brendan Pelley, which is on the menu through July. When Gita takes over, BNV beverage director Michael Boughton will also debut a new beverage program to complement the Nepali fusion fare.
Kantrow immigrated to Lincoln, Mass. as a 9-year-old, without her parents, who still live in Nepal. In the U.S., she was raised by American family friends. She took to cooking as a comfort, she says, a taste of home.
“They didn’t know how to cook Nepalese food, and I wasn’t used to an American diet, so I used what I had to create a similar Nepalese dish that I was familiar with, tweaked around here and there,” she says. She goes back to visit Nepal biennially to visit family, and to eat homecooking.
She describes the country’s cuisine as a lighter than Indian food, though they share similar spice profiles, like cumin, coriander, and masala. There is also a huge Tibetan influence. Momos, Nepali dumplings that are making inroads in the Boston area with 2015 openings of Tasty Mo:Mo: and Momo & Curry, both in Somerville, are equally popular in—and might actually be from—Tibet, Kantrow says.
As an adult, Kantrow started taking cooking more seriously as a career, and she launched a private chef business three years ago. Kantrow has also interned in some of Boston’s best kitchens, including Trade, Rialto, and Journeyman. But, “I don’t have that school background that most restaurants are looking for, especially if you want to be a sous chef or executive chef,” she says.
“To be able to work at Wink & Nod and be able to run this program is a great opportunity for me to show you can do it yourself.”
And the culinary incubator has a proven track record. Pelley is planning his own restaurant and is hopeful for a 2017 debut, though he doesn’t have a location yet, he says. Akinto, a Southeast Asian concept by chef Patrick Enage, will debut later this year, next door to Wink & Nod in the former Merrill & Co. space. Juliet, by Bread & Salt Hospitality’s Josh Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri, is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Union Square, Somerville. And Brassica Kitchen + Café, from inaugural Wink & Nod tenants Whisk (chefs Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta), officially opens June 1 in Jamaica Plain.
Kantrow hopes her six-month residency will pave the way for her own restaurant someday.
“It would be fun to do some sort of fusion. Now that I’m doing Nepalese, I think it will be something I lean toward, to go back to my roots and help other people experience this culture.”
MOMO pan-fried pork pot-stickers with spicy roasted tomato chutney
PURI stuffed with lentil, chickpea & potato stuffed fried dough with yogurt cilantro and chili sauce
MASALA FRIED CHICKEN marinated overnight and served with cilantro chutney
CHICKEN SEKUWA garlic & ginger marinated grilled chicken with tomato-cilantro chutney
PORK-ALOO MASALA ACHAR braised pork & potatoes with toasted mustard seeds, sesame seeds, tamarind, cilantro & roti flatbread
BUTTER CHICKEN yogurt, cinnamon & clove marinated chicken with coconut rice & chili-mustard seed roasted cauliflower
SEL ROTI traditional sweet-rice donuts with chai tea
GULAB JAMUN milk beignets with cardamom, rosewater syrup & crushed pistachio