Sip and Savor: Somm’s Kitchen brings a fresh approach to downtown
Sommelier Ian Adamo curates global and local wines
Does downtown Paso Robles need another wine bar?
Yes. If it’s anything like Somm’s Kitchen. The newly opened wine bar and eatery brilliantly combines freshly prepared small plate items with a notable wine list still being fine tuned as of this writing. Sommelier Ian Adamo and his chef partner Tom Santos are creating a delightful food and wine experience that will soon become a favorite with locals along with visitors.
The restaurant, bar and wine shop is intimate with a seating capacity of 14 around the curved bar counter anchored by the impressive Jamon Iberico Pata Negra de Bellota (imported from Spain) and a fashionable ice bowl cradling sparkling and white wines.
“It’s like coming to someone’s home,” said Adamo, who personally pours the wine and plates the cold food appetizers from behind the counter. “The whole idea of the restaurant was to have a small space, offering pure ingredients, with no pomp and circumstance,” Adamo offered.
But Somm’s Kitchen, located at the corner of Pine Street and 13th Street, is far from down home; the bar is sophisticated and elegant with the counter serving as the maestro’s stage.
And like a conductor in charge of his musicians, Adamo orchestrates his moves with great precision — deftly slicing slivers of ham, artistically assembling small plates of cheeses and charcuterie — all the while paying attention to the diners’ needs and offering tastes of hard-to-find wines and obscure grape varietals.
An inventory of 600-700 bottles is curated from over 100 wine regions. While forty percent of wines featured are from the Central Coast, the remainder is international. “That’s our niche,” Santos commented.
On my few visits, I have savored a refreshing OSA, a Sicilian rosé made from frapato, a light bodied aromatic grape; and discovered ruche, a distant clone of nebbiolo varietal from Italy’s Piemonte region. High in tannins the latter wine produced by Ferraris was surprisingly fragrant with rose petals and cherry notes. The list is heavy on French and Italian wines yet there are some gems from Austria, Hungary, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
And that’s the key to the Somm’s Kitchen concept — to introduce Paso Robles wine aficionados to an extensive selection of international wines in addition to Central Coast wines. Adamo is eager to offer several tastes of wine before you select one or more by the glass or by the bottle.
Adamo starts off by querying his diners of their tastes and offers suggestions. “I’m here not to tell you what to drink, but to let you figure it out yourself.” This kind of friendly tasting also encourages sales of bottles that diners can purchase from the wine shop located in the back of the bar.
“Wine can be super romantic and it can be super intimidating,” Adamo remarked. And his approach is to make his diners comfortable.
The food is as impressive as the wines. The menu is divided into hot and cold plates. To start off, Adamo suggests small plates of charcuterie from a selection of smoked duck with cherries, Hudson Valley foie gras torchon, paté de Campagna, coppa dulce and speck with chestnut ricotta and quail egg. “Expertly sourced ingredients from small producers” is how Adamo describes a menu that boasts a dozen each of cold plates and warm plates. Some local purveyors include Olea and Loo Loo farms.
Chef Santos in charge of the galley-like kitchen prepares most of his dishes with the sous vide technique so the dishes come out tender and succulent such as the Akaroa king salmon with potatoes and tarragon, Colorado lamb sirloin with sauce violetette and chicken thigh with Cognac cream.
Both the crawfish étouffée and gambas al ajillo have enough spice that it pairs perfectly with Peregrine pinot noir from New Zealand’s Otago region. Sure to become a winner with the diners is the poached egg dish served with asparagus spears on a luscious pool of créme fraîche.
The indulgent food and wine experience is topped off with a selection of Adamo’s signature desserts: the light and airy gluten-free Bolzano apple cake and a sublime orange confit that simmers in its own juice and sugar for three days.
Adamo, a Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) Level III Advanced Sommelier, is now in his fourth year of the exclusive Institute of Masters of Wine program. Adamo’s culinary background has taken him from working at top restaurants such as New York’s Le Cirque and Seattle’s Lamperia.
Looking for country life experience he came to Paso Robles and worked at Bistro Laurent for 10 years.
The sommelier continues his wine education program at Hotel Cheval on Saturday mornings and serves as the wine ambassador for Treana Winery. He also hosts twice a year workshops at Cambridge University in England teaching the students how to blind taste North American wines.
Adamo teamed up with his partner Santos to found the Vintage Deliveries wine club that makes monthly shipments of interesting variety of wines from recent vintages.
“This is for the wine geek, for self education, and not for a collector,” Adamo commented.
Adamo’s personal touch in the front of the house and Santos’ superb culinary skills in the kitchen are kicking up another notch in Paso’s vibrant downtown dining scene.
Somm’s Kitchen is opened Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner.
On Monday nights the restaurant plans to conduct thematic wine workshops.