Photos By:: Adil Arora
I had come late for dinner and I could only find a corner of a table occupied by DWC President Subhash Arora and Aspri Wines Director Arun Kumar, CEO Sumedh Singh Mandla and their resourceful team, seated on the ground floor while the dinner celebrations were going on at the first floor reserved exclusively for the Club members, but which was already full to the brim.
After we completed a most satisfying dinner and were waiting for dessert, Subhash and I went up to the second level of the restaurant, which has its famous oval-shaped, 3,500-kilo exhaust-cum-art installation, to deliver the vote of thanks to the cooking and waiting staff for doing such a superb job for the evening. By the time we were back, our chairs had gone missing — they had been removed to accommodate guests who kept pouring in; it was nearing 11 and it took the waiters a good five minutes of searching to get us replacement chairs.
OTW is on a roll — and the DWC dinner definitely gave the city’s newest, chicest restaurant the added buzz of an all-sold-out dinner on a buzzy, house-full evening when Nandan Nilekani was entertaining a big group in the private dining space alone the water body, and an old friend of the club, T.P.S. Uberoi (formerly GM of The Park and The Suryaa, and now developing luxury residences for Shipra ), was celebrating his birthday at the table next to ours.
The two men behind it, the indefatigable Prasanjit Singh and Abhijit Mukherjee, who seem to have an ever-flowing well of creative ideas, have a good reason to rest on their laurels, but I am certain they are already working on their next project.
The planning of the dinner was a leap of faith on the part of our president Subhash. He’d paired Master Chef Syed Arif’s Hindustani khana with a twist with the enigmatically named Bird in Hand and Two in the Bush wines from Australia — I learnt later that the Bird in hand winery is named after old Adelaide Hills mines that had swallowed so many dreams and hopes during the Gold Rush of the 1800s. There were also wines from another Aussie winery, Yering Station in Yarra Valley.
The Two in the Bush Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007 just hit it off with the appetisers — Thandae Kumbh (an inviting cold mushroom preparation that had ‘superhit’ written all over); Patthar Murgh Tulsi Dhania (the jaded Haryali Murgh reinvented on a Hyderabadi stone griddle); and Patthar Ke Aloo (yet another creative recasting, this time of the tired Bharwan Aloo).
Keeping up the spirit of the dinner, the sorbet was Indian at heart — Imli Adrak aur Gur ki Chuski, combining the refreshing qualities of tamarind, ginger and jaggery. It was the palate cleanser we needed for the Patthar ke Phool (thin strips of cauliflower florets dusted with rice flour and lightly fried to produce an explosion of joy on the palate), Subz Tali Machhli (sea bass quilted with a light green marinade and then crumb-fried to challenge Amritsari Fish lovers to change their loyalties) and the Gosht Yakhni Pulao (Curried Mutton Pilaf), paired with the discovery of the evening — Yering Station Pinot Noir 2009 from the Yarra Valley. It was like a match made in heaven. The gentle fruitiness of the dishes complemented the lightness of the dishes. We must thank Sumedh’s team for finding this luscious wine that has the unctuousness of a crafty cat and the creative pairing by the club President.
After this wholesome treat, we had very little room left for gravy dishes, but we had to have the Bird in Hand Shiraz with the Old Delhi classic, Nahari Gosht, and Moong Dal Tadka. The cultural reference points of the three couldn’t have been more different, yet they got as thick as thieves, proving that there’s a match for every wine in the world — you just have to make the effort to find the right one.
With a Hyderabadi chef presiding over the evening, the inimitable Shahi Tukda had to be on the menu. Unfortunately there was no dessert wine planned with it as most of our members prefer a cup of tea or coffee with the dessert. My thoughts went to Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria from the Sicilian house of Donnafugata which is served at Dum Pukht Restaurant at the ITC Maurya Delhi; it would have done a tango with the dessert!
Many people would have found pairing of wine with food quite difficult. Well, that’s what a Delhi Wine Club dinner is all about. It doesn’t let you believe for a moment that you know it all. Discovering wine is a lifelong pilgrimage. Let’s celebrate this little joy in our crowded lives.
The writer is the Executive Editor, restaurant critic and food columnist of Mail Today, an India Today Group daily newspaper published in Delhi, Chandigarh and London