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Delhi Wine Club
DWC Dinner: The Exotic and Moroccan Casablanca

Posted: Thursday, 26 September 2013 11:41

DWC Dinner: The Exotic and Moroccan Casablanca

Sep 26: The 215th dinner of the Delhi Wine Club at the Casablanca Restaurant at the DoubleTree Hilton Gurgaon with wines from Antinori, Santa Rita and Bertani was a roaring success with a full house in attendance, despite the distance from Delhi. The seemingly infinite delicious Moroccan dishes paired with wine and a super service made the evening memorable, writes President Subhash Arora who has receiving numerous congratulatory messages

Photos By:: Adil Arora

When Rajat Tuli, the former Exec Chef and now the F & B Director of DoubleTree Hilton in Gurgaon called me up to suggest a wine dinner at Casablanca, the Moroccan cuisine specialty restaurant, I was excited and apprehensive at the same time; excited because its reputation as the best Moroccan cuisine restaurant in the Delhi NCR region had travelled before the call; and apprehensive about most Delhi residents not willing to travel so far to Gurgaon because of traffic. After several aborted attempts, I did take time out one evening to check out the restaurant when the Moroccan chef was kind enough to welcome me with a personal bottle of Moroccan Rosé and truly a Presidential meal.

Finishing the thoroughly enjoyable meal, the decision to organise a dinner at the Casa was made despite the apprehension. After a couple of meetings with the over-enthusiastic and persuasive Rajat we came to a workable solution-to have the dinner on a Saturday night and have an optional package for a night stay at the hotel for the interested Delhi guests at a price they could not refuse. The preparations started in full swing with wines being organised from Berkmann Cellars India in Mumbai.

The reputation of Casablanca for its exotic Moroccan cuisine must have travelled far and wide-our planned seats were booked up even before we decided the Menu or the wine list. Rajat went another step further and offered the restaurant exclusively to the Club-even if it were a Saturday so that the members could get a full taste of the Moroccan cuisine and an undivided attention.

Click For Large ViewThe rainy evening started with an array of snacks served with Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc which despite its simplicity charmed the members with its fruitiness, freshness and crisp acidity. The snacks- Asparagus & Zucchini Pastilla, Fava Beans Makrouta, Cheese & Pine Nut Briouat, Spinach & Cheese Briouat, Shrimp Briouat, Khlea Makrouta, Chicken Pastilla and Lamb Briouat-exotic names all,  were delicious enough for members to forgot there was a feast awaiting them at the tables.

Harira Shot as the Amuse Bouche and the Moroccan National soup which was delicious and not too spicy were best had on their own. We waited for the Mezza Platter and the Villa Antinori Bianco 2011- a blend of Trebbiano, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio from the well-known Tuscan producer. One did not find the platter much different than the original Lebanese dish, apart from the big, spicy olives and attractive presentation.

Shish Taouk (Kebabs) & Red Snapper served with Garlic mash potatoes, casa salad & tomato olive salsa would pass for the main course dish at most restaurants but not at Casa tonight. Antinori Santa Cristina, a decent quaff from the famed producer was a good match for the fish helped by the condiments and the Merlot in the Sangiovese-heavy blend.

Click For Large ViewThe highlight of the evening was Tagine-the typical Moroccan style slow-cooked stew braised at low temperature resulting in tender meat that falls off the bone and very soft on the palate. Tagine served with steamed couscous and rice or Moroccan bread would be enough as main course for a  3-course meal. But today we had THREE different variants served one after the other-Seafood Tagine with prawns, mussels, octopus, fish, bell pepper and tomato, Lamb Tagine with a Lamb Shank, Saffron, Green beans and preserved Lemon and their signature Rabbit Tagine with Raisins, onions and apricots; the Restaurant had offered to serve even the Quail Tagine. Fennel, Moussaka and Spicy Berber Vegetables- each with their own accompaniments, were offered to vegetarians. Santa Rita Cab Sauv was a better match than the Bertani Valpolicella which was a bit too acidic and softer for non vegetarians. Vegetarians would have found it more delicious because of softer tannins. Valpolicella was juicy enough to be enjoyed on its own.

By this time most members’ stomachs had given in-too much food, was the general refrain- we had overlooked to warn the members that it was a tasting dinner and they should be careful in selecting small quantities of each dish for tasting. Dessert platter was a well presented platter of Basima-Baked yoghurt with coconut, cream and nuts, Khabil Gazelle - Sugar and sesame cookies filled with dates and Wine poached pears withGoat cheese, honey & nuts. The Moroccan Mint Tea was well appreciated match to help digest the generous portions of uncountable dishes.

Click For Large ViewIt has been our endeavour to have our member taste unusual wines as often as possible. Therefore, to end the evening at a sweet and crisp note, we served tasting shots of the iconic icewine from Weingut Ansalmann in the Palatinate Region of Germany. The members had a first-time taste ever of a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé icewine while a few had to contend with Sylvaner, another popular grape variety in Germany for superb icewines. It’s a matter of time that icewines will find a place in people’s cellars and restaurant lists but it was satisfying to end the evening on a high note.

In the midst of the usual bonhomie with the sound bytes reaching a crescendo, our newest member, Ashish Dhingra won the lucky dip prize of a one-night weekend package at the beautiful property, given away by Monisha Dewan, the General Manager. Nice finale to a longer-than usual evening, thanks to the exceptionally large menu and the leisurely pace.

It was a yeoman’s service by the band of chefs who kept on churning out the never ending dishes but the service staff gets full marks for being very professional, polite and being always there with a smile. Even more impressive was the wine service. Proper glasses, right temperatures for all the wines and perfect pour sizes made it a truly seamless and stress free operation. The F & B Director Rajat Tuli and his team, inspired by the GM Monisha Dewan, made most people agree it was one of the best evenings and one could her them planning to come back another time-and yes, it was a full house with the restaurant thankfully closed to public.

Click For Large ViewMembers have been very appreciative of the dinner. ‘It was an excellent evening-a lot of good food, good wine and great company- a combination which always make our Delhi Wine Club dinners special. The hospitality and service from the Double Tree was excellent. Monisha, Rajat and their team  did an excellent job. We were not wanting for any element throughout the evening’, gushes Gautam Gulati, a founder member who is a resident of Gurgaon.

‘One of the best wine dinners I have enjoyed, despite my injured hand. Food was excellent in taste and variety (maybe a bit too much!). Service was friendly and attentive and wines were very good quality. My four guests really enjoyed the overall experience and may join the Club next year,’ says Ranjan Pal, another founder member who was the President of the Gurgaon Chapter till it was merged with the main club.

Superna Malhotra is a hard-to-please vegetarian lady member. Her major complaint at most dinners is that vegetarians are short-changed at our dinners- despite the fact that we let the vegetarians choose alternate dishes from the Menu. She declared enthusiastically that this had been absolutely the best DWC wine dinner she has had as a vegetarian member. She was extremely delighted with the variety and flavours of the food.

Click For Large ViewThe one complaint most members had was that the Menu was too elaborate and they could not do justice to all the dishes. Says Gautam, ‘the number of items on the menu were no doubt too many, but were well made and had genuine flavors.’

The lone dissenter, Chintamani Rao felt that the food was a bit too spicy (I could have done with some more spices, though). He was also disappointed that the flavors of the duck and lamb Tagine were similar. Although, in a normal course of the evening, a customer would perhaps order only one of the 3 Tagines served (a rare treat)-seafood, rabbit and lamb as also the 3 vegetarian variants, his point was well taken by the Chefs who did a splendid job producing endless dishes throughout the evening.

Most members would love us to go back to the restaurant for another event and the hotel is willing to welcome us yet another time and soon. Let’s keep our appetite up!

Subhash Arora

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